A low-cost programmable computer for kids

Contacts: Jack Lang, Lecturer, Computer Lab

Applications to study Computer Science at University have dropped sharply over the past 10 years, as computers have become tools to use rather than machines to program. It is very hard for school-age children to find appropriate environments to try programming computers, with PCs and Java being unwelcoming for young beginners. At the same time, more and more industries rely on computer programming skills and experience.

Jack is hoping to change this, using his experience as part of the original team that created the BBC Micro (recently featured in “Micro Men” on the BBC), and encourage more young people to try their hand at programming. The goal – a low-cost computing box that allows kids and other enthusiasts to try their hand at writing programs, engaging their creativity and excitement in making something of their own happen on a screen.

The challenge for the i-Team is to talk to children and young people of different ages and their teachers to help define the new product. The key questions are what would attract them to buy it, what would they want it to do, and how would they expect to use it. The i-Team should aim to identify the key features (hardware and software) that the box must have to sell tens of thousands of computers. Can we recreate the excitement of the past and help train the programmers of the future?