Cool little computers teach kids to code

The new Micro:bit joins the likes of Raspberry Pi and Arduino
A new miniature, single board computer the BBC is being distributed to students across the UK. (BBC)

Recently, there has been an explosion in the popularity of very small, very cheap, simple miniature computers. If you search for projects you can do with one of the most popular of these computers, the Raspberry Pi, you'll see everything from clocks, to pirate radio transmitters, to automatic cat food dispensers. Once you develop the skills to program and run these simple little circuit boards, they have an incredible range of creative uses.

Now, a program from the BBC is trying to put their own version of these computers, called the micro:bit, into the hands of students across the U.K. The BBC is releasing the miniature, open board computer to a millions kids across the UK. The program is a continuation of the BBC Micro program from the 1980s.

"Although it's small, it packs quiet a punch" explains Sinead Rocks, Head of BBC learning and education. "It's got a number of features built into it, from LEDs to programmable buttons, on onboard motion detector and a built in compass. It comes in a range of colour and we worked with different design companies to try and create something that 11 and 12 year-olds would really love. Something that is keeping with their lives, something that is very portable, very mobile, but also something that pretty much looks quiet cool."

Sinead says that the goal is to introduce children to building and coding computers, instead of just the consumer-facing side of electronics that most of us are exposed to. She also says the hope is that the micro:bit will be a sort of "gateway drug", and that they will eventually graduate to using other, more complicated open board computers, like the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino.

Want to learn more about coding? Check out SCRATCH from MIT or Codecademy to learn about different programming languages. Or try the Raspberry Pi blog to see projects that others have done.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.