If you grew up in the 1980s, as I did, you’ll have no doubt seen or used a BBC Micro. The Micro Bit is a codeable computer with some clever features that the BBC is hoping will address the current skills shortage and help improve kids’ science, technology and engineering learning. We explain what is BBC Micro Bit and how to buy BBC Micro Bit. See also:
How to learn to code
BBC Micro Bit UK release date: When is the BBC Micro Bit coming out?
Following delays caused by issues with the Micro Bit’s power supply, the micro computer was handed out to every Year 7 school child in the UK on 22 March. Those who pre-order the Micro Bit now (see below) should get it in early July.
BBC Micro Bit UK price: Who will get a free BBC Micro Bit?
For school kids the price is £0, and for everyone else £15. A million Micro Bits will be given to schools for Year 7 pupils.
How to buy BBC Micro Bit
The BBC Micro Bit is now available to pre-order from distributors including
Tech Will Save Us and
The Pi Hut. If you’re looking to buy a large quantity of BBC Micro Bit computers
pre-orders of 90-plus units are also possible. The first paid-for micro:bits will ship in July 2016.
What is the BBC Micro Bit?
The Micro Bit itself is a circuit board measuring just 50x40mm with two buttons and an array of 25 red LEDs in a 5×5 arrangement. It will come in various colours, including green and blue.
Kids can program the board via a web-based interface to do many things, including flashing up numbers, letters and scrolling messages on the LEDs. Plus, since there’s a built-in accelerometer and compass, it can detect movement and tell which way it’s pointing.
The buttons can control games, or even control music playback on another device such as a phone. It can do this because it has on-board Bluetooth, so it can communicate with other Bluetooth devices including tablets, cameras and the increasing number of smart home gadgets.
There are also five rings which work with crocodile clips or 4mm banana plugs. Using these, kids can attach more sensors including thermometers, moisture sensors, proximity sensors and more.
The Micro Bit can also send signals to the rings to control motors, robots and other things.
Those gold markings aren’t just for show: the entire edge of the Micro Bit is a ‘standard’ edge connector which allows it to connect to a Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Galileo or Kano.
The Micro Bit can also act like a USB flash drive when connected to a PC so programs can be dragged and dropped onto it.
Power comes from two AAA batteries, although it can also operate in a ‘tethered’ mode where it takes power from another device such as the Raspberry Pi.
How do you program the BBC Micro Bit?
Kids (or schools) choose their preferred language and once a program is finished it can be saved and sent to a server which compiles the program into the code the Micro Bit can understand. The compiled program can then be downloaded and transferred onto the Micro Bit.
As well as PCs and laptops, the editors will also run on a smartphone and tablet (because, as we said, they’re web-based).
The benefit here is that the compiled program can be transferred wirelessly via Bluetooth to the Micro Bit.
BBC Micro Bit specifications
- Size: approx. 5cm x 4cm
- Weight: 8g
- Processor: 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 CPU
- Bluetooth Low Energy
- Digital Compass
- Micro-USB controller
- 5×5 LED matrix with 25 red LEDs
- 2 programmable buttons
- Powered by 2x AAA batteries
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