Monday, October 26, 2015
12:00 PM
The BBC micro:bit and Microsoft Touch Develop

The BBC’s 2015 “Make It Digital” initiative aims to inspire young people to develop core skills in science, technology and engineering, to help seed a new generation of digital makers, inventors and pioneers. The centerpiece of this initiative is the BBC micro:bit, a small programmable device that visibly features a 5x5 LED display, accelerometer, compass, buttons, I/O pins, Micro USB plug, Bluetooth Low Energy antenna, and an ARM Cortex-M0 processor. Like Arduino, the BBC micro:bit can be connected to and interact with sensors, displays, and other devices. Every Year 7 student in the UK will receive a BBC micro:bit, for free, this school year.

As a lead partner on the project, Microsoft’s goals are to provide: (1) a browser-based introductory programming experience for students who have never programmed before; (2) an architecture that allows students to uncover the many capabilities of the BBC micro:bit and, in doing so, learn key concepts in computer science; (3) curriculum-mapped content for the BBC micro:bit to support teachers in their classrooms. In this talk, I’ll describe how we extended Touch Develop ( to support a set of programming languages, code editors, and simulation of the micro:bit within the confines of the web browser, backed up by web services for sharing of scripts and compilation to the micro:bit proper.

Please visit the BBC micro:bit web site at to explore yourself.


Thomas Ball (Tom) is a Principal Researcher and Research Manager at Microsoft Research. Tom graduated with a B.A. in Computer Science from Cornell University in 1987 and a M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1993. From 1993-1999, he was a member of the technical staff at Bell Laboratories, where he made contributions in program visualization and program profiling. In 1999, Tom moved to Microsoft Research, where he started the SLAM software model checking project with Sriram Rajamani, which led to the creation of the Static Driver Verifier (SDV) tool for finding defects in device driver code. Tom is a 2011 ACM Fellow for "contributions to software analysis and defect detection". Since becoming a manager at Microsoft, he has nurtured research areas such as automated theorem proving, program testing/verification, and empirical software engineering. His current focus is CS and programming education via the Touch Develop and BBC micro:bit projects