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By Sam Brown / Nov 17, 2016


The Micro:bit was created as a gift from the BBC to grade school children. They designed it to teach a programmer’s way of thinking in a fun, easy, hands-on way.

Coding for the Micro:bit is some of the least intimidating I’ve seen yet. Children can program by dragging visual “blocks” of code around in a browser window, similar to using the Scratch programming language. When they’re happy with their program, they just download the file from the website, and drop it on the Micro:bit, which appears to computers as a USB drive. The Micro:bit automatically starts running the new program.

Right out of the box, the Micro:bit is ready for many lessons. The Micro:bit comes with a 5×5 grid of built-in lights, along with a button on each side, an accelerometer so it can tell if it’s being tilted or shaken, and a compass. The on-board Bluetooth and the JST connector complete the package.

The Micro:bit isn’t built to control a plethora of devices out of the box. Although the board has 20 GPIO pins for connecting to other devices, only three of the connectors are easy to attach to. These three have big, wide pads good for alligator clips or conductive thread. The remaining 17 connections are narrow, unlikely to be used for casual prototyping. To get easy access to these pins, you’ll want to pick up the expansion board the Micro:bit slots into.

Many maker boards claim to be user-friendly. The Micro:bit delivers on this promise. It’s the first board I’ve sampled so far that’s easier to use than even the basic Arduino Uno. As a starter board to get children experimenting with electronics, the Micro:bit is hard to beat.

Micro:bit BBC
Price:£12.49, or about $15.50
Make: Recommendation:Education
Software:Online graphical editor, Python, or Javascript
Clock Speed:16MHz
Processor:32-bit ARM Cortex M0
I/O Pins Digital:14
I/O Pins Analog:6 ADC
Operating Voltage:3V–3.3V
Dimensions:5cm x 4cm
Memory:16KB RAM
Additional Features:Graphical coding environment. Built-in LED grid, buttons, and accelerometer


Why to Buy

You want a board with a lot of built-in features, so you can start educating your child in programming and electronics, and you’re looking for a Scratch-like visual programming environment.

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