BBC's Raspberry Pi Zero rival heads to Canada in 100,000 bulk order

Canada looks to spark interest in computer science with the help of the BBC's micro:bit development board.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

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Canada is rolling out 100,000 of the BBC-designed micro:bit development boards, according to micro:bit manufacturer and distributor Premier Farnell.

The company is working with Canadian non-profit KidsCode Jeunesse to deliver the Raspberry Pi Zero-like development boards to children as part of CanCode, a $50m federal program that aims to provide coding and digital skills to a million students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

In January, the government announced a $6m investment in KidsCode Jeunesse through CanCode.

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation launched the BBC micro:bit in the US and Canada in July last year with ambitions for the computing device to reach two million students by 2020.

The board was given to every 11- to 12-year-old student in the UK in 2016. The BBC argues that it has had a major positive impact on students and teachers in terms of attitudes towards computer science.

The BBC worked with Arm, Microsoft, Samsung Freescale, Pi distributor element14, Barclays, and others to design the board, which it unveiled in 2015 and is now overseen by the UK-based Micro:bit Educational Foundation.

Premier Farnell distributes the micro:bit in North America through its Newark element14 business. It's also got a contract with The Micro:bit Educational Foundation to manufacture the micro:bit.

The micro:bit boards are smaller, less powerful and at about $20 are cheaper than the better-known Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. They can be programmed with Scratch or Microsoft's MakeCode and run on a 32-bit Arm Cortex MO CPU with 16kB RAM.

They also feature 25 programmable LEDs, two programmable buttons, 25 connection pins, and sensors to detect light, temperature and motion. They also have built in Bluetooth and a micro USB connector.

Other countries that have used the micro:bit for large educational programs include Iceland, Singapore and Croatia.

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