The publicly funded British Broadcasting Corporation is to hand out the simple Micro Bit computers before the children start high school this coming autumn. Last year, coding was introduced to the British school curriculum as part of a drive to improve knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, writes Rich Trenholm of CNET.
Micro Bit computer to encourage coding
The initiative will enable further progress in coding education. British schoolchildren now learn two or more programming languages, in addition to related subjects such as Internet safety. The Micro Bit is a “small, wearable… entry-level coding device”, which is designed in such a way that children “pick it up, plug it into a computer and start creating with it immediately”.
The Micro Bit was developed by the BBC in conjunction with tech companies such as Samsung, Microsoft, ARM, Barclays and the team responsible for Raspberry Pi. It is hoped that the device will act as a gateway to more complicated devices like the Raspberry Pi, Arduino or Kano.
“We have already seen our customers across the world develop fantastic products for the Internet of Things,” said Element14 CEO and Raspberry Pi manufacturer Laurence Bain, “and we can’t wait to see what the Micro Bit can enable for the engineers of the future.”
Previous BBC technology intiative
The BBC was responsible for a similar scheme back in the 1980s, when it backed the BBC Micro computer, which was manufactured by Acorn. The BBC Microcomputer System was responsible for selling various 8-bit computers over the course of the decade. An accompanying government subsidy covered half of the cost, which meant that the majority of British schools had a BBC Micro, opening a generation’s eyes to computing.
The BBC’s Make it Digital initiative also offers a 9-week apprenticeship to unemployed teenagers in which they are taught basic digital skills, and the broadcaster is also working on a series of coding-themed program and activities.
One such program is a drama based on the Grand Theft Auto video games, while BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a series of programs on the history of coding, as well as a documentary on Bletchley Park, where mathematician Alan Turing cracked Nazi codes during World War II.