It’s spring, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is blooming! More specifically, the BBC micro:bit is now available, and more than 1 million students in the U.K. have started to receive theirs in the past few weeks. Along with our tech partners, Microsoft and the BBC are putting the small computing devices into every Year 7 student’s hands in the U.K., just in time for the fifth annual worldwide IoT Day on Saturday, April 9.
From games to security sensors to climate analysis, the micro:bit can be plugged into a computing device using a USB cable and programmed using a browser-based coding and content platform called Microsoft TouchDevelop. It works with all major smartphones, tablets, desktop operating systems and browsers, and users can combine sensor data and analysis in ways we haven’t even imagined yet. A BBC micro:bit has already gone into near space (to 106,000 feet, or about 20 miles), launched via helium balloon by Rishworth School in Yorkshire, where it took photos of Earth and recorded temperature and altitude data before parachuting back to the ground.
The micro:bit is the centerpiece of the BBC’s “Make It Digital” initiative, which aims to inspire young people to develop core skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The device is designed to help students with little to no coding or computing experience quickly learn the basics and create their own apps and games. It features a 5×5 LED display, an accelerometer, compass, buttons, I/O pins, a Micro USB plug, a Bluetooth Low Energy antenna and an ARM Cortex-M0 processor; the combination of programmability and sensor capabilities makes it an ideal IoT device. Once students have mastered the basics, it’s up to them to create innovative projects and applications that will build their own computing skills while extending the power and potential of IoT.
As part of this initiative, Microsoft is providing a browser-based coding and development platform for the device, along with classroom resources to help students quickly learn to use the micro:bit. The Quick Start Guide for Teachers provides simple, step-by-step lesson guides and walkthroughs to get them started. Meanwhile, a host of lesson plans are available for the Touch Develop and Block Editor code editors — at all levels of experience. There are also some great project examples for staff and students to check out on this specially developed OneNote Notebook.
Over the coming weeks and months, Microsoft and other partners will announce coding and programming challenges to inspire students to collaborate and innovate as they experiment with the micro:bit. One of these challenges is aligned to the global Bloodhound supersonic car project. Launching on April 18, the “Race for the Line” Rocket Car Challenge will encourage students aged 11 to 16 across the UK to work with educators in building their own Bloodhound foam rocket cars with a BBC micro:bit recording real-time telemetry from the car. Using the captured data, students can adjust their designs to improve performance and speed before entering their fastest times onto a national leaderboard.
Learn more about Microsoft’s role in making the BBC micro:bit available to a rising generation of coders in the U.K. For more information on what IoT can do for your business, visit www.InternetofYourThings.com.