The tiny, but massively flexible computer chips allow children to ‘get under the skin’ of technology in a way that their parents rarely could. In a world where employers are struggling to find candidates with the right digital and STEM skills, these kinds of initiatives could prove immensely valuable in the future.
The first batch of computers has already been delivered to thousands of Year 7 students and aims to reach a million students in 2016.
The basic chip includes 25 LED lights in a 5×5 array, Bluetooth, an on board compass and several programmable buttons. With its ability to connect to other devices like sensors and mobile phones, the possibilities for using the computer chip is astronomical.
Suggestions on the BBC micro:bit website include robots, musical instruments, simple games machines and compasses.
One school has even sent a chip 20 miles into the stratosphere where it took pictures of the earth and recorded a minimum temperature of -47.9°C.
The BBC sees the technology as the ‘little’ brother of the original BBC Micro project which formed the centrepiece of the organisations first computer literacy push in the 1980s. The BBC claims that many influential leaders in the technology industry at the moment cite the BBC Micro as having been crucial to their computing careers.
One of the latest projects, launched on 18 April is already proving popular with schools and students up and down the country. Mainly because involves, speed, rocket engines and competition.
Microsoft have teamed up with the Bloodhound Project, an engineering project aiming to set a new world land speed record, to get the next generation interested in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
The Model Rocket Car Competition will see young students constructing rocket fuel-powered cars before using implanted BBC micro:bit computers to capture speed and racing data.
After being fed back to a computer, this data will allow students to tweak their models to make them go faster. The on board computer chip allows students to see the link between technology and engineering.
One team has already reached speeds of 533mph and in June, the fastest teams from across the country will race each other in a finals event.