You've probably have heard of the Raspberry Pi - the barebones computing unit beloved by DIY hackers and coding enthusiasts everywhere. Well, now there's a similar device on the market: it's called the BBC Micro Bit, and every 11-year-old kid in Britain is about to get one for free.
Like the Pi, the Micro Bit is a small, low-power, embedded device with inputs, outputs, and a processor. It includes a variety of sensors, 25 LED lights, two programmable buttons, and Bluetooth, with power provided either through an external battery pack or an attached USB device. After several delays (it was originally intended to arrive last summer), the device is now making its way to around 1 million Year 7 and Year 8 (ages 11-12) schoolchildren in the UK.
In the near future, anyone will be able to buy a Micro Bit to use as the basis of their own computing projects.
Funding for the giveaway comes from the BBC's Make It Digital campaign, and the publicly funded corporation's remit to encourage educational schemes. It's hoped that the Micro Bits will "inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology", says the BBC.
The Micro Bit comes with a smartphone app and web portal that youngsters can use to get coding through a beginner-friendly interface. The makers of the small device are suggesting that the kit could be used to create games, simple robotic mechanisms, and fitness trackers, but the potential uses are almost limitless. It can also hook up to other devices such as the aforementioned Raspberry Pi.
"We can't wait to see what students will do with it," said Sinead Rocks, head of BBC Learning. "They've already come up with all kinds of ideas during testing and at events around the country - some ideas help solve some of life's daily challenges, some could have business potential, and others are just great fun."
"Teachers have been quick to embrace it too, which is so important to the success of the project, and they have already made valuable additions to our online resources," she added.
As we reported last June, when the final design was unveiled, the Micro Bit can become anything from a remote control to a metal detector. The ultimate goal is that children will leave school knowing how to program computers and not just how to use them. And who knows? Perhaps the next generation's Mark Zuckerberg will get his or her start with one of these new devices.