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BBC micro:bit to get its first major update since launching in 2016

The new BBC micro:bit ‘mini-computer’  given to school children has been upgraded with AI and machine learning support, a new speaker and a microphone. 

It was launched in 2016 as part of the BBC ‘Make it Digital’ campaign and four years later over five million have been used by schools and children around the world.

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The project is no longer run by the BBC, it was taken over by the Micro Bit Educational Foundation, a non-profit group setup to make coding more accessible. 

As well as a new microphone and speaker, that could be used for anything from listening out for doorbell sounds to playing back voice recordings, the device will include a touch sensor that could count how often a fly lands on a pad. 

The new BBC micro:bit ‘mini-computer’ given to school children has been upgraded with AI and machine learning support, a new speaker and a microphone

The palm-sized micro:bit was launched in 2016 as part of the BBC 'Make it Digital' campaign and four years later over five million have been used by schools and children around the world

The palm-sized micro:bit was launched in 2016 as part of the BBC ‘Make it Digital’ campaign and four years later over five million have been used by schools and children around the world

As well as a new microphone and speaker, that could be used for anything from listening out for doorbell sounds to playing back voice recordings, the device will include a touch sensor that could count how often a fly lands on a pad

As well as a new microphone and speaker, that could be used for anything from listening out for doorbell sounds to playing back voice recordings, the device will include a touch sensor that could count how often a fly lands on a pad

Other new sensors on the device including light, magnetism and temperature, to create a wider range of applications. 

Micro Bit Educational Foundation said the changes were in response to requests from teachers around the world over the four years since it was first released.

‘The purpose of the Micro Bit is to help children unlock their creative potential and learn how to shape the world around them,’ Gareth Stockdale, chief executive of the Micro Bit Educational Foundation, told BBC News.

‘Learning coding and computational thinking can enhance their life chances in the 21st Century.’ 

The new micro:bit is a more powerful device combining all the same features of the original and extra features to enhance learning in the classroom, the foundation said.

As well as new hardware features, the latest update included a new technical platform adding support for AI and machine learning. 

It is a palm-sized circuit board and has 25 LED lights that can be programmed to show shapes, numbers and letters. It also has a bluetooth chip for wireless connectivity. 

BBC Director General Tim Davie said the micro:bit project has the same qualities that form the core of the BBC – to ‘inform, educate and entertain’. 

The micro:bit can be used in classrooms to teach children about coding and computing

More than five million micro:bit mini computers have been used in 60 countries around the world

Micro Bit Educational Foundation said the changes were in response to requests from teachers around the world over the four years since it was first released

The new micro:bit is a more powerful device combining all the same features of the original and extra features to enhance learning in the classroom, the foundation said

‘Since its launch through our Make it Digital campaign, it has helped transform digital skills and learning,’ Davie said. 

NEW MICROBIT: MORE FEATURES ‘STRAIGHT OUT OF THE BOX’  

  • A 9mm magnetic sounder speaker
  • Microphone and ‘microphone operating LED’ light    
  • Nordic nRF52833 microprocessor, which has 512kB of flash storage
  •  128kb of RAM, eight times that of the original micro:bit, and runs at 64MHz, up from 16MHz 
  • These updates make it possible to support AI and machine learning applications
  • The device is capable of lower power consumption, allowing for long-running data logging
  • The micro:bit logo is now a capacitive touch sensor
  • Pins on the Edge Connector can also be used to sense touch 

There are more than five million micro:bits used in classrooms around the world, used to teach the basics of coding through interactive projects.

It started as a way to support computational thinking in the UK, but since then the BBC micro:bit has gone on to global success.

To use the device users write code on a computer, tablet or even a smart phone then transfer them to the device to make it perform tasks.

The previous version could flash messages and record movements – but with a microphone, more memory, speaker and touch sensor – the new device can do much more, including responding to sound. 

It is estimated that about 25 million children have learnt computing skills on the device since 2016 and it is in use in 60 countries.

The device is used in primary and secondary schools, libraries and has even been used in universities to demonstrate coding applications.  

“The Micro Bit has a low floor and high ceiling – you can make it as advanced as you wish but it can also be very basic,” Keith Quille, a lecturer at the Technological University Dublin, told BBC News. 

“We teach it at primary schools and at university degree level – because you don’t need lots of other tools to make it work, it’s very easy to use.”

The foundation says it transforms ‘students’ engagement with technology’ and builds teachers’ confidence in leading digital skills and creative computing education. 

The latest version of the device will be released in November starting at £11.50. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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