BBC gives away one million Raspberry Pi-like Micro Bits to UK students

The BBC will hand out one million Micro Bit devices to year 7 students later this year in a one-off campaign to spark up creative and coding skills among youngsters.

The BBC Micro Bit
The Micro Bit. Image: BBC

The BBC plans to give every year 7 student in the UK a Micro Bit mini computer.

The public broadcaster will give away one million of the Raspberry Pi-style devices as part of a program to foster the development of coding skills among young Brits and address a tech skills shortage predicted to hit the country in the coming years.

The Micro Bit is similar to the UK's "fastest selling computer" the Raspberry Pi, and the BBC's program shares many of the same goals as the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

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While the giveaway has the potential to step on the foundation's toes, the BBC said it's being careful not to repeat the mistakes of its launch of the BBC Micro in the 1980s - a product also intended to raise computer literacy in the UK. That computer miffed Sir Clive Sinclair, who was planning to launch the ZX Spectrum not long after. The popular computer was recently reborn in Indigogo campaign for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega.

This time around, the BBC will partner with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, which is lending its educational know-how to the initiative.

When the device is released this September it will be wearable with an LED display. Students will be able to programme in Touch Develop, Python, and C++ after plugging it into a computer. The device is designed to connect to a range of devices, including the Pi, Arduino, Galileo and the Pi-based Kano.

The BBC has partnered with 25 organisations for the program, among them ARM, Microsoft, Samsung Freescale, Pi distributor element14, and Barclays.

The Micro Bit was announced on Thursday as part of the BBC's wider Make it Digital launch, which aims to develop the nation's digital prowess through a range of projects, including up to 5,000 traineeships for young unemployed people.

According to the BBC, Radio 1 will offer the best trainees the opportunity to take up an apprenticeship at the organisation.

It will also look to bring digital content into popular shows such as as Doctor Who, EastEnders and the One Show. Additionally, it's making a new drama on BBC Two based on Grand Theft Auto and a documentary on Bletchley Park.

The one million Micro Bit program is a one off, the BBC notes, so after they've all been handed out there will be no further hardware forthcoming.

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