The back of the BBC micro:bit microcontroller.
|Developer||BBC Learning, BBC R&D, ARM Holdings, Barclays, element14, NXP Semiconductors, Lancaster University, Microsoft, Samsung, Nordic Semiconductor, ScienceScope, Technology Will Save Us, Python Software Foundation|
Schools: September 2015 (delayed) |
Public: October 2015 (delayed)
First deliveries to teachers reported February 10th 2016
|CPU||Nordic Semiconductor nRF51822, 16 MHz ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller, 256 KB Flash, 16 KB RAM.|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth LE, MicroUSB, edge connector|
The board measures 4 cm × 5 cm and has an ARM Cortex-M0 processor, accelerometer and magnetometer sensors, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a display consisting of 25 LEDs, two programmable buttons, and can be powered by either USB or an external battery pack. The device inputs and outputs are through five ring connectors that form part of a larger 23-pin edge connector.
- Nordic nRF51822 – 16 MHz 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller, 256 KB flash memory, 16 KB static ram, 2.4 GHz Bluetooth low energy wireless networking. The ARM core has the capability to switch between 16 MHz or 32.768 kHz.
- NXP/Freescale KL26Z – 48 MHz ARM Cortex-M0+ core microcontroller, that includes a full-speed USB 2.0 On-The-Go (OTG) controller, used as a communication interface between USB and main Nordic microcontroller. This device also performs the voltage regulation from the USB supply (4.5-5.25V) down to the nominal 3.3 volts used by the rest of the PCB. When running on batteries this regulator is not used.
- NXP/Freescale MMA8652 – 3-axis accelerometer sensor via I²C-bus.
- NXP/Freescale MAG3110 – 3-axis magnetometer sensor via I²C-bus (to act as a compass and metal detector).
- MicroUSB connector, battery connector, 23-pin edge connector.
- Display consisting of 25 LEDs in a 5×5 array.
- Three tactile pushbuttons (two for user, one for reset).
I/O includes three ring connectors (plus one power one ground) which accept crocodile clips or 4 mm banana plugs as well as a 23-pin edge connector with two or three PWM outputs, six to 17 GPIO pins (depending on configuration), six analog inputs, serial I/O, SPI, and I²C. Unlike early prototypes, which had an integral battery, an external battery pack (AAA batteries) can be used to power the device as a standalone or wearable product. Health and safety concerns, as well as cost, were given as reasons for the removal of the button battery from early designs.
There are two official code editors on the micro:bit foundation web site:
Alongside these two editors are 3 legacy editors that are no longer updated:
- Microsoft Block Editor, based on Blockly;
- Microsoft TouchDevelop;
The Python programming experience on the Micro Bit is provided by MicroPython. Users are able to write Python scripts in the Micro Bit web editor which are then combined with the MicroPython firmware and uploaded to the device. Users can also access the MicroPython REPL running directly on the device via the USB serial connection, this allows them to interact directly with the Micro Bit's peripherals.
The Micro Bit was created using the ARM mbed development kits. The run-time system and programming interface utilize the mbed cloud compiler service to compile the user's code. The compiled code is then flashed onto the device using USB or Bluetooth connections. The device will appear as a USB drive when connected to a computer and code can be flashed using drag and drop.
Other editors for the BBC micro:bit include:
- Mu, a Python editor
- EduBlocks, a block editor for MicroPython
Other programming languages for the BBC micro:bit:
- Free Pascal (instructions)
- Simulink (Simulink Coder Support Package for BBC micro:bit Board) Provides access to all peripherals like accelerometer, magnetometer, radio, LEDs, buttons and allows one-click code generation and execution on the micro:bit board with signal logging and parameter tuning from the Simulink block editor.
- C++ (programming language) (instructions)
- Forth (programming language) (instructions)
- Lisp (programming language) (instructions)
- Ada (programming language) (instructions)
Operating systems which can be built for the BBC micro:bit:
- Zephyr - the Zephyr lightweight OS comes with the required parameters file to be able to run it on this board.
The Micro Bit was designed to encourage children to get actively involved in writing software for computers and building new things, rather than being consumers of media. It has been designed to work alongside other systems, such as the Raspberry Pi, building on BBC's legacy with the BBC Micro for computing in education. The BBC planned to give away the computer free to every year 7 (11- and 12-year old) child in Britain starting from October 2015 (around 1 million devices). In advance of the roll-out an online simulator was made available to help educators prepare, and some teachers were to receive the device in September 2015. Thereafter, the device was planned to be on general sale by the end of 2015. However, problems delayed the launch until 22 March 2016.
The BBC had a difficult decision to choose which year group would be the first to receive the free Micro Bits, and the BBC's head of learning said that "The reason we plumped for year seven [rather than year five] is it had more impact with that age group … they were more interested in using it outside the classroom".
Planning for this project began in 2012 as part of the BBC Computer Literacy Programme and by the time of the launch in July 2015 the BBC had taken on board 29 partners to help with the manufacturing, design, and distribution of the device. The BBC has said that the majority of the development costs were borne by the project partners, and it intends to license the technology as open source and allow it to be manufactured around the world for use in education, and it has formed a non-profit company to oversee this.
The development of the Micro Bit is a product of a number of partners working with the BBC:
- Microsoft – contributed its software expertise and has customised the TouchDevelop platform to work with the device. After the product is on general release it will be responsible for hosting the projects and code for all users of the device. It has also developed the teacher training materials for the device.
- Lancaster University – developing the device runtime.
- Farnell element14 – overseeing the manufacture of the device.
- Nordic Semiconductor – supplied the CPU for the device.
- NXP Semiconductors – supplied the sensors and USB controller.
- ARM Holdings – provided mbed hardware, development kits and compiler services.
- Technology Will Save Us – designing the physical appearance of the device.
- Barclays – supported product delivery and outreach activities.
- Samsung – developed an Android app and helped connect the device to phones and tablets.
- The Wellcome Trust – provided learning opportunities for teachers and schools.
- ScienceScope – developing an iOS app and distributing the device to schools.
- Python Software Foundation – worked to bring MicroPython to the device, created native and web-based beginner-friendly Python code editors, produced numerous educational resources and organised developer-led workshops for teachers.
- Bluetooth SIG – Developed the custom Bluetooth LE profile.
- Creative Digital Solutions – developed teaching materials, workshops and outreach activities.
- Cisco – provided staff and resources to STEMNET to aid with the national rollout.
- Code Club – Created a series of coding resources aimed at children ages 9 to 11 and delivered via volunteer run coding clubs.
- STEMNET – Provided STEM ambassadors to support schools and teachers and to liaise with third parties such as Bloodhound SSC and Cisco.
- Kitronik – Produced and gave away 5,500 e-textile kits for the BBC micro:bit to D&T teachers across the UK. Designed hardware such as a Motor Driver board to allow the BBC micro:bit to control devices such as motors and servos.
- Tangent Design – Created the brand identity for the BBC micro:bit and developed the website.
A prototype device and software stack created by BBC R&D, demonstrated in the initial announcement, was used to test the proposition in schools, and to provide a reference specification for the partnership to build upon.
Microbit Educational Foundation
After a successful roll-out of the micro:bit across the UK, the BBC are handing over the future of the BBC micro:bit to the newly formed, not-for-profit, Microbit Education Foundation. The foundation's CEO, Zach Shelby, formerly Vice President of Marketing for Internet of Things at ARM Holdings, is set to increase the uptake of the BBC micro:bit in education throughout Europe and then the rest of the world.
The announcement was made on Oct 18, 2016 to a small group of journalists and educators at Savoy Place in London, that included a review of the past year and their plans for the future.
The transition from the BBC to the micro:bit Education Foundation is a phased transition which started with the official home of the micro:bit moving from https://www.microbit.co.uk/ to https://microbit.org/.
On Jan 2, 2018 it was announced that Gareth Stockdale from BBC Learning would succeed Zach Shelby as CEO of the Microbit Educational Foundation.
In addition to the partnership that was established to produce and support the micro:bit, the BBC also established a small list of approved resellers so that once the initial schools rollout was complete the micro:bit could be made available to the general public. The BBC micro:bit is now available from the following sources:
- Maplin Electronics - The UK's largest electronics retailer carries a range of micro:bit and accessories options.
- 4tronix - A small maker company from the UK that produces products for a variety platforms, including the micro:bit, which specialises in robotics.
- Kitronik - Ships the micro:bit internationally and designs and produces micro:bit accessories and kits. They also produce free micro:bit learning and teaching resources.
- Learning Developments - New Zealand company. Official resellers and specialising in the micro:bit. Owned and run by teachers for teachers.
- Pimoroni - A UK company that supply a range of Maker products and accessories. They ship the micro:bit worldwide.
- Proto-PIC - An electronics store based in Scotland that ship to the UK and also to Western Europe.
- ScienceScope - Creators of the micro:bit iOS App and who also create micro:bit resources, Scienscope also ship the micro:bit internationally.
- Tablet Academy - An education based company and micro:bit reseller with ties to Lamar University in the US.
- Technology Will Save Us - Sells digital tools and electronics/engineering kits, including micro:bit related kits, now also selling the micro:bit and related items.
- The Pi Hut - Based in the UK, The Pi Hut ship the micro:bit and related products internationally.
- Binary Bots - Based in the UK, provide 'Smart Toy' robotic kits that include a BBC micro:bit. They ship & resell internationally
- Fair Chance Learning - Based in Canada sells micro:bits and supports educators using the BBC micro:bit by providing learning solutions to deliver rich educational experiences for both educators and students, and ensure investments in computer science, STEM, and coding reach their intended outcomes.
"Robótica Educativa - 50 Proyectos con micro:bit" Author: Ernesto Martínez de Carvajal Hedrich (2018).
"The Official BBC micro:bit User Guide" Author: Gareth Halfacree (2017)
"micro: bit in Wonderland: Coding & Craft with the BBC micro:bit" Authors: Tracy Gardner and Elbrie de Kock (2018).
"Getting Started with the BBC Micro:Bit" Author: Mike Tooley (2017)
"Micro:Bit – A Quick Start Guide for Teachers" Author: Ray Chambers (2015)
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…we plugged them into a Nordic NRF51822 development kit, which uses the same chip as the micro:bit…
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The BBC micro:bit is based on the mbed HDK. The target MCU is a Nordic nRF51822 with 16K RAM, 256K Flash. As well as the nRF51822 there's also an onboard accelerometer and magnetometer from Freescale.
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- Code Kingdoms
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