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What is a micro:bit?

RobbieDunion
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Unless you were hiding under a rock on Wednesday you will have most likely heard about the BBC’s Make It Digital Initiative, the micro:bit, after the corporation started to distribute over 1 million of the devices for free to every Year 7 student in the United Kingdom.

The tiny micro:bit is aimed at harnessing the next generation’s interest in technology to provide a platform to empower them to become the coders of the future.  

Unlike the leading microcomputer on the market Raspberry Pi, which many DesignSparkers will be very familiar with, the micro:bit is actually a microcontroller.

This means that the micro:bit must be plugged in via its mini-USB port to another computer in order to be programmed. This is a very simple and child friendly process however, thanks to it being a cross platform device and requiring no drivers to be installed.

It also provides a stepping stone into platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi, that are helping to shape the engineers and software developers of tomorrow.  

The micro:bit has an extremely simple program to introduce the user to the 5x5 LED matrix display, buttons and accelerometer straight from the box.

However, in my opinion the greatest beauty of the micro:bit for the education market is that you do not have to install any software to get coding, all programming is carried out in the web browser on the BBC micro:bit website using the selected code editors. There is even a drag and drop option, Block Editor, which is particularly child friendly.

micro:bit is powered by a Nordic Semi nRF51822 SoC processor, which bundles a Bluetooth LE radio with a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 CPU running at only 16MHz and with just 16KB of RAM. There is also a Kinetis microcontroller, which has a 48MHz Cortex-M0+, which is used as a bridge between the micro:bit and a USB-connected computer.

The micro:bit also includes a pair of onboard sensors in the form of a magnetic compass and an accelerometer, giving it basic positional and gesture-recognition capabilities. There’s a pair of buttons, plus a reset button at the rear, a 3.3V battery connector, and the front is dominated by a 5x5 matrix of 25 red LEDs – the only display available to the device.

For more information you can see the BBC’s introduction video above or visit https://www.microbit.co.uk

I am a 32-year-old tech lover, self-confessed geek and football fanatic! When I am not playing with the latest gadget you will often find me watching my favourite TV shows including Game of Thrones, Young Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory. Feel free to follow me on Instagram @robbiedunion or Twitter @robbiedunion

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