BBC Announces RISC-V-Powered Doctor Who-Themed HiFive Inventor Educational Microcontroller Kit

Narrated by Jodie Whittaker, the Doctor Who-themed kit is powered by SiFive's RISC-V-based HiFive Learn Inventor board.

UK broadcast and education organization the BBC has announced a partnership with Tynker and SiFive to launch an educational kit built around the latter's latest HiFive Learn Inventor hardware and its RISC-V microcontroller — and it's using the popular sci-fi series Doctor Who to get kids interested.

Announced last year, the HiFive Learn Inventor is a hand-shaped educational microcontroller board based on a modification of the form factor of the existing BBC micro:bit platform. Where the BBC micro:bit uses proprietary Arm cores, though, the HiFive Learn Inventor is powered by a SiFive FE310 32-bit microcontroller based on the free and open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture.

While the novel shape and full-color 6x8 RGB LED matrix display on the front might attract kids, though, SiFive isn't leaving things to chance: A partnership with the BBC will see the launch of an educational programme in which students will be walked through a range of projects themed for the organization's Doctor Who franchise — complete with voiceovers by Jodie Whittaker, who plays the thirteenth Doctor.

"At the heart of BBC Learning is a mission to use industry-leading story-telling to educate people worldwide," says Kara Iaconis,BBC Learning global head. "This initiative builds upon the storied legacy of the BBC, and we are excited to bring cutting-edge education to students in a way that enables learning like never before. We look forward to working with organizations and companies globally to broaden this platform and to get kids coding."

"Over the last eight years, Tynker has engaged 60 million kids worldwide in coding and we look to continue to build the next generation of innovators and problem solvers with this partnership," adds Tynker chief executive Krishna Vedati, providing the block-based and MicroPython programming environments for the platform. "The BBC Doctor Who HiFive Inventor is perfectly designed to spark kids’ curiosity in physical computing as they learn to program the Internet of Things using block-coding and MicroPython."

"Kids are the future, and my six- and eight-year-old love the BBC Doctor Who HiFive Inventor," concludes Dr. Chris Lattner, president of engineering and product at SiFive. "It provides a great combination of block-based and real coding in a physical space that they can interact with and learn from. Coding is an incredible skill that allows us to build anything that you can imagine - apps, autonomous cars, and things we haven’t dreamed up yet — and kids have the best imaginations. We at SiFive love working with BBC Learning and Tynker to help drive this amazing collaboration, and move the state of computer education forward."

The kit, which includes a SiFive HiFive Learn Inventor, case, battery pack, speaker add-on, USB cable, and alligator clips, goes on sale on Monday on the official website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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