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BBC Micro:bit delayed further due to 'fine-tuning' issues

The microcomputers are now expected to reach students in March at the very earliest.

Jamie Rigg , @jmerigg
01.21.16 in DIY
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The BBC launched the "Make it Digital" campaign early last year as a multi-pronged effort to get our young ones interested in coding and other creative pursuits within technology. A key piece of the puzzle was the BBC Micro:bit, a tiny Raspberry Pi-like computer the broadcaster promised to distribute freely to Year 7 students throughout the UK. Originally, the development boards were supposed to hit desks last October, just a few weeks into the new school year. Power supply problems identified shortly before that deadline delayed the rollout, and now the BBC has revealed yet more problems have arisen that mean Micro:bits are unlikely to be widely available until the summer term.

According to a top BBC Learning bod, the new delays are the result of issues with "fine-tuning" the hardware. Following the power supply problems reported last September, the BBC intended to put Micro:bits in teachers' hands before Christmas, and distribute them to students in early 2016. Needless to say, the goalposts have moved yet again, and teachers can now expect theirs just after the February half-term break. The idea is teachers familiarise themselves with the Micro:bit before students start tinkering with their own. The BBC has promised to make as many as possible available to Year 7s before the end of the spring term in late March, but it's likely distribution won't happen en masse until the summer term (starting early April).

The BBC issued the bad news at the Bett education technology conference currently underway in London. Ironically, Samsung is due to show off the Micro:bit Android app at the same event. It'll allow users to program the tiny computer using just a tablet or smartphone, while also letting the Micro:bit talk to mobile devices and issue commands of its own. Since the BBC Micro:bit will be handed out, for free, to one million students, delays are hardly something to complain about. Only that by the time Year 7s get theirs, well.. there won't be a great deal of Year 7 left to make the most out of them.

The consolation is Micro:bits are being given to students, not schools, so the hope is they'll play around with the devices outside of term time, and use them in Year 8 projects. To make amends for the delay, the BBC will also be distributing more Micro:bits than originally planned. So, although a little late, even more kids will get their own miniature computer to develop their digital skills with.

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