Uni’s new Bit of technology

Dr Joe Finney (left) at the BBC launch.
Dr Joe Finney (left) at the BBC launch.

Lancaster University computer scientists are at the forefront of a UK-wide BBC initiative launched to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology.

The BBC and partners this week unveiled the BBC micro:bit – a pocket-sized, codeable computer that allows children to get creative with technology.

The micro:bit.

The micro:bit.

In the BBC’s most ambitious education initiative for 30 years, up to 1m devices will be given to every 11 or 12-year-old child in Year 7 or equivalent across the UK, for free this October.

Computer scientists at Lancaster University, led by Dr Joe Finney, helped develop the coding and programming behind the tiny device.

The university is also working closely with teachers to support the introduction of computing into the national curriculum in primary schools.

Lancaster University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), Prof Sharon Huttly, said: “Lancaster University has an excellent track record in Computer Science research, teaching and public engagement. BBC Make it Digital and Micro Bit provide us with the opportunity to combine these strengths and reach out to every Year 7 child across the country to inspire and motivate the next generation of scientists.”

The BBC micro:bit is a pocket-sized computer that you can code, customise and control to bring your digital ideas, games and apps to life.

Measuring 4cm by 5cm, and designed to be fun and easy to use, something simple can be coded in seconds – like lighting up its LEDs or displaying a pattern – with no prior knowledge of computing. All that’s needed is imagination and creativity.

The BBC micro:bit also connects to other devices, sensors, kits and objects, and is a great companion to Arduino, Galileo, Kano, littleBits and Raspberry Pi, acting as a spring board to more complex learning.

Key features include 25 red LEDs to light up, flash messages, create games and invent digital stories, a motion detector and compass.

It can also be turned into a spirit level and used for motion-activated games.

A built-in compass or “magnetometer” is included sense which direction you’re facing, your movement in degrees, and where you are. It includes an in-built magnet, and can sense certain types of metal.

Bluetooth Smart will help the micro:bit connect to the internet and interact with the world around you. It will also connect the micro:bit to other micro:bits, devices, kits, phones, tablets, cameras and everyday objects all around.

You can share creations or join forces to create multi-micro:bit masterpieces, take a selfie, pause a DVD or control your playlist.

The project’s 29 partners include: ARM, Barclays, BBC, element14, Freescale, Lancaster University, Microsoft, Nordic Semiconductor, Samsung, ScienceScope, Technology Will Save Us and the Wellcome Trust.