21 March 2016 14:41

Computer scientists at Lancaster University have developed the ‘lightweight operating system’ for the new BBC micro:bit that is being given to almost a million school children this week.

The BBC micro:bit, launched as part of the BBC Make it Digital initiative, is a pocket-sized programmable computer that allows young people to get creative with technology, whatever their level of experience, and aims to help develop a new generation of digital pioneers. A free micro:bit is being delivered to every year seven student in England and Wales, year eight student in Northern Ireland and S1 student in Scotland.

Computer scientists from Lancaster’s School of Computing and Communications, led by Dr Joe Finney, designed and developed BBC micro:bit runtime; the essential core code that makes the BBC micro:bit do all the amazing things it does. Lancaster will continue to support the micro:bit community as it grows, and is organising research into how effective the micro:bit is being, in order to improve its effectiveness and inform future projects in the field.

Dr Finney said: “The teaching of computing in schools in the UK is going through its largest ever transition - moving away from teaching how to use computers, and instead establishing computing as the new ‘fourth science for schools’ with computer science principles at its core.

“The BBC micro:bit project is designed to inspire a generation of school children to be the digital creators of the future, not just digital consumers. Modern computer science is a creative, collaborative and challenging subject, and the BBC micro:bit project lets us give a taste of this blend of creativity and science to school children at massive scale in a fun and accessible way.”

Students can program their BBC micro:bit to become anything they want – from simple games to smart watches and even fitness trackers – all by using one of the code editors at www.microbit.co.uk , or the Android mobile app (iOS coming soon), and by connecting it to other devices and sensors. The website also features a range of resources and tutorials to help teachers, parents and students take advantage of the BBC micro:bit’s potential.

It’s the BBC’s most ambitious education project in 30 years and builds on the pioneering role of the BBC Micro, which helped introduce the nation to computing in the 1980s. It has been made possible only through a ground-breaking partnership between the BBC and 31 organisations including ARM, Barclays, element14, Lancaster University, Microsoft, Nordic Semiconductor, NXP, Samsung, ScienceScope, Technology Will Save Us and the Wellcome Trust.

The UK faces a critical skills shortage in the technology sector and the aim of the BBC micro:bit is to help change that.

More information about the BBC micro:bit is available by visiting https://www.microbit.co.uk/

To find out more about Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications visit http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/scc/