28 Mar 2018

BT Scotland renews support of Digital Xtra Fund to help make high-quality computing science activities available to young people

BT Scotland has renewed its partnership with digital skills charity, Digital Xtra Fund. Its support will ensure high-quality digital technologies activities will continue to be available for young people in the Glasgow City Region.

Digital Xtra Fund is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) striving to give every young person in Scotland access to digitally creative activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live. In partnership with industry, the Fund delivers grant awards for activities which inspire, enable and engage young people to be digitally innovative and creative, giving them a better understanding of the future career opportunities digital skills provide.

BT Partnership AnnouncementDigital Xtra Fund was originally established in 2016 and funded through the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership. In March 2017, Digital Xtra Fund was spun out as an independent charity to enable it to work with a wider range of industry partners, with BT Scotland signing up to support the Fund from the outset. Last year, the Fund awarded grant awards for 11 exciting, high-quality initiatives across Scotland ranging from robotic competitions to designing model Formula 1 cars.

In 2017/18, support from BT Scotland helped develop coding clubs in Renfrewshire delivered by West College Scotland. This support gave young people from the west of Scotland the opportunity to build their digital skills; creating games, graphics and sounds, and discovering emerging technologies such as virtual reality.

Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, said: “BT is right behind Digital Xtra Fund because we believe every young Scot needs to learn digital skills as a basic, along with reading and writing. It’s vital that industry works together with the public and voluntary sectors to tackle Scotland’s digital skills shortage and prepare young people for the future world of work. We’re proud to renew our support.”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund said, “BT Scotland’s support for us as a new charity was hugely important to helping deliver the first round of grant awards. Equally, BT renewing their support for 2018/19, along with our other new partnerships, recognises the Fund is achieving what it set out to do and is now gaining momentum. We look forward to working with the team at BT Scotland to support some fantastic future initiatives and inspire more young people in digital tech.”

 

About BT

BT’s purpose is to use the power of communications to make a better world. It is one of the world’s leading providers of communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities include the provision of networked IT services globally; local, national and international telecommunications services to its customers for use at home, at work and on the move; broadband, TV and internet products and services; and converged fixed-mobile products and services. BT consists of six customer-facing lines of business: Consumer, EE, Business and Public Sector, Global Services, Wholesale and Ventures, and Openreach.

For the year ended 31 March 2017, BT Group’s reported revenue was £24,062m with reported profit before taxation of £2,354m.

British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York. www.bt.com

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14 Mar 2018

Edinburgh International Science Festival: Robo Constructors

Alongside their annual festival, which is celebrating its 30th edition in 2018, Edinburgh International Science Festival also travels across Scotland each year from January to May with their primary schools outreach programme, Generation Science, engaging almost 60,000 children across all of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas. Generation Science inspires young people through a variety of exciting hands-on activities and workshops covering a wide range of STEM subjects from life sciences to digital technologies. It has been running for over 28 years and is the country’s largest and longest-running touring extracurricular STEM education programme.

 

Robo Constructors

This week’s blog, the 6th of our highlighted 11 initiatives, looks at how support from Digital Xtra Fund means this year’s Generation Science programme offers even more opportunity for young people to learn digital skills with their newest workshop, Robo Constructors. Ten schools in Dumfries and Galloway and South Lanarkshire will receive free workshops, allowing 300 of their pupils to take part in digital technology workshops that they would otherwise not have been able to access.

Robo Constructors WorkshopRobo Constructors is a fun, fast-moving workshop where pupils become mini-robot engineers, exploring open ended challenges to create their own novel, wacky and useful robots! Using Cubelets Robot Blocks, a simple and intuitive modular robotics system, young people will learn about the rules of robotics and logic as well as the steps behind the design process. They will discover how different components can change the behaviour of a robot, learn how different sensors can be used to control a robot’s movement, understand how to troubleshoot the construction of a robot to identify why it might not perform as expected, and use critical thinking, teamwork and problem solving skills to complete challenges.

Support from the Fund brings this workshop to schools which are amongst the most rurally isolated or suffer from the highest rates of deprivation, expanding the geographic reach of digital skills activities across Scotland. By making the workshop playful and fun, led by trained Science Communicators who make links between the workshop’s digital content and devices, companies and brands young people are familiar with, Robo Constructors will spark young people’s interest in computing science and digital technologies, encouraging them to continue studying these at school, and encouraging greater female participation in computing science.

Robo Constructors WorkshopJoan Davidson, Head of Education at Edinburgh International Science Festival, spoke about how Digital Xtra Fund is helping Generation Science to engage and inspire more young people and their teachers, “Generation Science is all about supporting the provision of science education in Scottish primary schools. We do this with a team of incredibly enthusiastic science communicators whose energy and passion for delivering engaging STEM activities inspires young learners and brings technology to life in the classroom. Working with organisations such as Digital Xtra Fund enables us to reach young people across Scotland wherever they may be. With the adoption of digital as part of the definition of STEM in the STEM education and training strategy for Scotland, it is vital that our young learners and their teachers have access to inspiring and engaging activities that not only cut across the curriculum but provide bridges to life outside the classroom and the wider world of work. There are many varied opportunities for our young people to engage and develop their digital skills and we will continue to support the development of this element of young people’s learning.”

 

Cubelets Robot BlocksGeneration Science is one of 11 initiatives Digital Xtra Fund is supporting in 2018, which will introduce over 3,200 young people to high-level computing skills. This is made possible by our sponsors and funders who contribute to our goal of giving every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. Find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future.

 

 #SciFive ticket offer

The 2018 Edinburgh International Science Festival will run from 31 March – 15 April. The programme is now live and is packed full of events for people of all ages. Teachers and students can also access £5 tickets for nearly 80 events in the Science Festival programme, thanks to their #SciFive ticket offer.

 Check out the programme here: https://www.sciencefestival.co.uk/whats-on

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01 Mar 2018

New College Lanarkshire: VEX Robotics Competition

VEX Robotics CompetitionInspiring young people into STEM using robotics, coding, and teamwork is the focus of the VEX Robotics Competition, an extracurricular programme where student teams design, build, and code robots to compete in an exciting global engineering challenge set annually by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation based in Greenville, Texas. The modular robot kits and variable challenges also promote skills such as creativity, problem-solving, and computational thinking while teaching students about the design process.

Leading the charge to grow this global initiative in Scotland is an exciting collaboration between the Faculty of Computing & Creative Industries and the Faculty of Engineering & Automotive at New College Lanarkshire in partnership with VEX Robotics and secondary schools in North Lanarkshire. Digital Xtra Fund is proud to support New College Lanarkshire to help grow this thrilling activity as one of the 11 initiatives funded in 2018.

Hard at workThe study of robotics links to all facets of STEM and New College Lanarkshire have developed an exciting programme that encourages young people to learn through exploration via hands-on, problem-based learning experiences. This year, 38 young people aged 12-16 from Lanarkshire have taken on the challenge of becoming robot designers adopting the roles of computer programmers, CAD designers, engineers, and robot pilots.

Paul McKnight, Head of Operations at VEX Robotics Europe said, “We are hugely appreciative of the support from the Digital Xtra Fund in helping to grow the cluster of schools working with New College Lanarkshire. Each year we see the level of competitiveness grow as the knowledge and understanding of the students increases. Together Digital Xtra Fund and New College Lanarkshire are helping to inspire Scotland’s next generation of STEM leaders.”

In The Zone ChallengeThese young robot-engineers recently got a chance to show off their creations and celebrate their new digital skills at the VEX Robotics Scottish Regional Finals on 2 February at the New College Lanarkshire Motherwell Campus. Teams competed in 2018’s ‘In The Zone’ challenge accumulated points by stacking cones, scoring goals and parking robots. Coding was key to maximising points as the robots also operated autonomously for the first 15 seconds of each round, giving teams the chance to earn even more points. The two highest scoring teams were the Alliance of Koala-T from Braidhurst High School and Jamie and the Generics from Airdrie Academy with each of these teams qualifying to compete in the UK National Championships on 2-3 March in Telford.

2017 Scottish Regional WinnersKoala-T were also winner of the Regional Design Award, judged this year by Digital Xtra Fund. The Design Award is presented to the team that best demonstrates an organised and professional approach to the design process, project and time management, and team organisation. During the robot’s design process teams must maintain an Engineering Notebook, documenting the progression of their robot from initial idea through to final testing. This helps the teams better understand the engineering design process while also practicing a variety of real life skills that will benefit in their academic and professional futures. As well as competing in the UK National Championships, this win also gives Koala-T opportunity to compete for the Design Award at the National level too!

In addition to their Regional Competition and Design Award wins, Koala-T team member Melissa Rodger also recently won The Diana Award for her work with young people engaging and exciting them in engineering, especially young girls. The Diana Award is a legacy to Diana, Princess of Wales’ belief that young people have the power to change the world. Through her love of science, Melissa has devoted her lunchtimes and evenings to lead a robotics club for younger, more vulnerable pupils within her school, creating a fun and welcoming learning environment. Her physics sessions are now so popular that there is a waiting list of pupils who want to join.

Airdrie Academy Power of 5Encouraging more young women to engage in STEM and computing science is a key aim of this initiative overall. Evidence of New College Lanarkshire’s success is apparent simply by the number of young women taking part, but it is exemplified by Power of 5 – the first all-female team from Airdrie Academy who also reached the UK Finals last year and were runner-up for the Design Award at this year’s Regional finals with their robot ‘KJ’. The team named their robot KJ after the iconic NASA mathematician, Katherine Johnson, whose computations have influenced every major space program from the Mercury missions through to the Space Shuttle, and who was the focus of 2017 film Hidden Figures, the untold story of female African-American mathematicians working at a segregated NASA during the 1960’s.

VEX Robots in the cornerUnfortunately, disruption across UK train services caused by the “Beast from the East” winter storm  has meant Koala-T and Jamie and the Generics are unable to attend the UK National Championships later this week in Telford. Both teams are understandably disappointed as they would have loved to attend. However, Digital Xtra Fund would still like to congratulate both teams on a job well done at the Scotland event and best of luck in the future. You can follow @NCLANVex on Twitter for the latest updates as well as updates on future tournaments.

 

Digital Xtra Fund’s annual grant rounds, which support New College Lanarkshire’s VEX Robotics programme and many other inspirational projects, are made possible by the valued support of Scotland’s tech industry, supplying sponsorship, donations and in-kind support that all go towards our goal of giving every young person in Scotland access to a digitally creative activity. Find out more about supporting Digital Xtra Fund and inspiring Scotland’s digital future.

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