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BBC to give every Year 7 child a mini micro:bit computer

In October the BBC will hand out up to 1 million pocket-sized computers to every 11 or 12 year old child in year 7 across the UK, for free.

The micro:bit is a tiny 4cm by 5cm codeable computer which can be easily programmed to perform a range of simple tasks, like lighting up its LEDs or displaying a pattern.

The BBC, which has developed the tiny tech along with 28 partners, unveiled the final design for the micro:bit in London this morning.

It includes 25 red LEDs which can light up and flash messages, two programmable buttons so the micro:bit can be used as a games controller or music device, a built-in ‘accelerometer’ and ‘magnetometer’ that can detect movement, which direction you’re facing and where you are, five input/output rings to connect the computer to other devices, and Bluetooth to connect to the internet.

The scheme was inspired by the much-loved BBC Micro which launched in the 1980s and quickly became standard technology in schools and universities.

Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC Learning, says: “We happily give children paint brushes when they’re young, with no experience – it should be exactly the same with technology.

“The BBC micro:bit is all about young people learning to express themselves digitally, and it’s their device to own.

“And as the micro:bit is able to connect to everything from mobile phones to plant pots and Raspberry Pis, this could be for the internet-of-things what the BBC Micro was to the British gaming industry.”

The BBC says the device will eventually help the UK fill the critical skills shortage in the technology sector.

Director-General Tony Hall says: “The BBC micro:bit will inspire a new generation in a defining moment for digital creativity here in the UK. All you need is your curiosity, creativity and imagination – we’ll provide the tools. This has the power to be transformative for the UK.”

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Tom is SalfordOnline.com's News Editor and community co-ordinator.