Everyone loves free stuff. Trust me, I saw hundreds of people at E3 moving from booth to booth looking for free swag. Although most of us won’t be able to take advantage of the free Micro Bit computer, BBC will be making some children happy this October as they give one million kids in the UK the device for free.

The Micro Bit computer is a simple programmable device suited to teach kids the basics of programming. The device features an array of red LED lights, two programmable buttons, as well as a motion sensor. All of these features were not included in the prototype shown back in March.

The Micro Bit computer does not have an onboard battery, so users will need to use an add-on battery pack that utilize two AA batteries. This is somewhat disappointing as the original prototype had a slot for a small watch battery, which would allow the device to be utilized as a wearable. A spokesman provided some reasoning behind the change:

The initial prototype utilized a smaller battery. However, in reviewing the design and examining the health and safety implications of using small batteries for a young audience, where siblings may be able to access the device. The partnership took the decision to re-engineer this element.

According to BBC, the device can be utilized in the following ways.

  • The Micro Bit’s built-in magnetometer sensor could be used to help create a metal detector
  • Its accelerometer to make a hi-tech spirit level
  • Its Bluetooth chip to control a DVD player
  • Its two buttons to create a video games controller

While BBC is offering the Micro Bit computer set, Microsoft has joined the party by building a Web-based app that provides a coding environment. Those that will be using the device can use the app to create different functionality for the device (as mentioned above).

Others that are helping fund the device include ARM (the chip designer), Barclays Bank, Samsung, and Lancaster University. While the first set of chips will be shipped to children in the UK free of charge, the device will be available for purchase to others in the UK and overseas by the end of this year.

These types of offers enable children to become exposed to a whole new world of technology. Programming is a great tool and is key to the evolution of technology. I wish I had an opportunity like this to learn basic programming skills when I was 11 or 12. Professor Mitchel Resnick stated:

I see coding as a new type of literacy. When kids learn to code, they learn new ways of expressing themselves and organizing their ideas. These skills are important for everyone, not just those who plan to pursue computing careers.

What are your thoughts? Will the BBC Micro Bit computer be a distraction, or a blessing in the lives of 11-12-year-old children? Let us know what you think in the comment section below