I recently backed an Indiegogo campaign for "STEM Revolution in Croatian Schools".
To learn what it is, please see the campaign (there's an English version if you scroll down) or read below for a short explanation. But first, a bit of background information.
Croatia is one of the few European countries that are behind modern world standards by some 50-100 years - from religion, education, medicine, even road quality, all the way to the workforce's desire to actually work, and their affinity for modern technologies.
Our youth is leaving the country because nothing is provided for them here - I don't mean free stuff (there's plenty of that for the useless people who don't want to work and just want to party or breed), but education and relevance in the modern world. If this keeps up, all the high quality people will have left the country in 20 years, and the pensions that their taxes are supposed to fund will be gone. In a single generation, a country will collapse, all because of the government's inability (or lack of desire) to look at things long term.
But really, why would they? When all you need to do is sit in a chair once a month for four years to get a life-long pension that exceeds the average salary of a Croat by 500%, it's only natural that human greed prevails - why would our politicians care? They were raised on the same corrupt system, and don't know any better, it's not their fault.
Thus, improvements to the current generation aren't coming from the top, and time is rapidly running out. But there are a few in this muck who care - capable, technologically literate people who see the future for what it is and where it's going. Such people can make all the difference if given enough support, and the Croatian Makers foundation is one such collection of people.
The Micro:bit is a micro-controller designed by BBC, Microsoft, and some other influencing companies. It has an LED matrix (i.e. a bunch of LEDs), Bluetooth, 2 buttons, compass, and an accelerometer. It also has some pins you can use to connect other sensors to it - laser, sound, smoke, temperature, etc. You can upload code to it and have it perform some functions, and it's very easy to use.
The micro:bit also lends itself perfectly to the Internet of Things concept, which is inherently dangerous and simply demands that more people get educated about it.
IoT is the concept of internet connected every-day devices: fridges, cameras, sensors, thermostats, toys, and more. A lot of modern day programmers have no concept of security whatsoever - this results in some critical security incidents like this one, where millions of insecure internet connected devices were hijacked and used to simultaneously attack a DNS server (one of the servers responsible for turning web addresses into IP addresses, allowing for modern Internet to exist), thereby crashing a big part of the internet.
By training children to code securely and in a modern way from early age, they will find it much easier to perfect their skills later on and not only stay relevant and employable, but also do it all securely - a must for future generations, if the security incidents of our time are any indication of things to come.
It's important to keep in mind that the micro:bit is a micro controller like the Arduino, not a micro computer like the Raspberry Pi. A micro computer can run a full operating system, and is just a very weak PC in a small form factor. A micro controller is designed to do one specific thing you tell it to do, and merge inputs and outputs for other machines and purposes - for example, to drive a lamp, a wearable device, a robot buggy, etc.
In a more practical example: you would use a micro computer like the Raspberry Pi to make a "smart home" control hub, but you would send the commands from this hub to a micro-controller attached to a servo attached to window blinds in order to raise or lower them.
In a nutshell, by learning how to program micro-controllers, children have a broader skill set that can be applied to any industry, and connected to any computer - micro or not.
So what's the campaign about?
The campaign aims to collect enough funds to purchase at least 10 micro:bits per participating school. The campaign organizers will then send the bits to the schools free of charge, and include basic usage and programming instructions, so that the various schools can get started playing around with the devices.
Several stretch goals have already been attained, but there's room for more - if we chip in and raise awareness, we might be able to include some high schools, too, and increase the number of bits per school.
You might be thinking this doesn't affect you. If you live in Croatia and have no plans to move soon, it affects you. If you care about people having jobs, it affects you. If you want to see the country break free from its medieval shackles of religion and corruption, this affects you very much. If you have children, this affects you more than you know. Unless your children are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), they will be jobless in 15 years, I promise you that. Even a country like Croatia will see robotization of workplaces - maybe even more so than other, more modern countries, because the greed is strong here. A massive automation of the workforce is not only an excellent money-laundering opportunity for the politicians, but also a huge savings opportunity when one considers the cost of 5 self-serving cash registers and one helper clerk vs. 6 full-time employed cash register clerks.
Note: the perks aren't shipped outside of Croatia for logistical reasons, but you do get the good feeling of having helped kids learn something useful, rather the yearly export of corn from Chile.