Last year, the BBC completed an incredible project that deployed a small, embedded computer to nearly a million school children in the United Kingdom. The goal was to provide the experience of digital creativity and coding to every child, thus increasing interest in STEM careers and confidence with technology.
This palm-sized computer, called the BBC micro:bit, integrates modern embedded ARM, Bluetooth, and MEMS directional sensor technology with an easy web interface designed for young children and teachers.
When I was growing up in Michigan in the 1980s, getting my hands on the Commodore 64 at age 8 made a big impact on my life. Developing my own games — at first, line by line from magazines and then all on my own — was very fulfilling! It led me to learn more about digital circuits and radio, and I eventually became an expert on the Internet of Things and a successful startup entrepreneur.
Last summer, I was given the incredible opportunity to create and lead the Micro:bit Foundation, a nonprofit that brings the BBC micro:bit to the entire world. My vision is that, in the future, every child will be an inventor. It’s therefore our job as engineers and makers to ensure that the technology is available to help children solve tomorrow’s challenges.
We’ve had an incredible journey building the foundation. Our web page is available in over 10 languages, and five countries in Europe and Asia have announced national school rollouts. We’re also now available in the United States.
Creating an entire organization and global infrastructure — and launching publicly in just 3 months — was quite a challenge! My experience with launching and advising startups was helpful. But taking on a project this size called for new solutions, tight teamwork, and hard work alongside 30 partners in order to make sure teachers and students could depend on us for their daily studies.
The thing I love about the micro:bit is the community that has grown around it. Educators, young people, companies, engineers, and makers around the world are volunteering their time to create learning resources and project ideas. They’re also contributing to the very micro:bit technology that our own team helps to cultivate and promote. I was recently inspired by Ross Lowe, a 16-year-old micro:bit user who created his own startup making a micro:bit accessory and educational resources for schools.
I can’t wait to see what makers will do next with micro:bit!