When you hear the name of the BBC, you’re likely picturing its award-winning documentaries, TV shows, and reputed news reporting. But what about a computer? They’re not the most famous of BBC’s creations, but it has produced a small number of cheap computers. The latest of these is the BBC Micro:bit. This is the computer, which the Micro:bit Sri Lanka User Group (Micro:bit SLUG) is using to introduce computing to Sri Lankan students.

What is the BBC Micro:bit?

It’s half the size of a credit card and is powered by an ARM processor, the BBC Micro:bit is a single-board microcontroller.  Think of it as a computer similar to the likes of the Raspberry Pi or an Arduino. Such computers are cheap and allow developers to create devices with ease. As a result of these two reasons, such computers have become popular in education circles.

The BBC Micro:bit

The BBC Micro:bit (Image credits: Techradar)

So what exactly does this tiny computer bring to the table? Alongside its processor, you’ll find an accelerometer, magnetometer sensors, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, two buttons, and 25 LED lights. These LED’s can be programmed for a variety of purposes. Similarly, the two buttons on the Micro:bit can be used to execute any programs you write.

But how exactly do you write these programs? There are multiple options available that support a variety of languages. But one that’s popular here in Sri Lanka is the JavaScript Block Editor. Developed as part of Microsoft’s MakeCode initiative,  this is a platform that allows you to create programs by assembling visual blocks of JavaScript code. To power all this, the Micro:bit can utilize USB connectivity or an external battery.

The BBC distributed the Micro:bit to every Year 7 student in the UK (Image credits: Robotistan)

The BBC distributed the Micro:bit to every Year 7 student in the UK (Image credits: Robotistan)

The Micro:bit project began in 2012 as part of the BBC Computer Literacy Program. It was designed to encourage children to write software and build new hardware, rather than being consumers. As such, it was distributed to every Year 7 (11 and 12-year-old) student in the UK.

Afterwards, the BBC handed over the future of this tiny computer to the Micro:bit Education Foundation on the 18th of October 2016. The mission of this organization is simple: to increase the use of the BBC Micro:bit in education throughout the world.

How the Micro:bit is introducing Sri Lanka to coding

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, there’s an army of volunteers that travel across the island. Their mission is to show every child in Sri Lanka that they can write code to create anything as long as they’re curious and passionate. Their tool of choice? The Micro:bit. They are the Micro:bit Sri Lanka User Group aka. Micro:bit SLUG.

 

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