24 Aug 2018

Digital Xtra Fund to award £75K to help boost digital skills in Scotland

A fresh round of funding will soon be available to inspire young people in Scotland to develop digital skills through high quality extra-curricular activities.

WHS Light Bike - AfGOn 30 August, Digital Xtra Fund will launch its next round of funding with a total of £75,000 available. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to extracurricular activity providers that teach skills such as coding, data science, and computational thinking and help inspire Scotland’s next generation of designers, developers, and digital technologists.

Created in 2016, the goal of the Fund is for young people across Scotland to have access to digitally creative activities to increase the number of young people entering highly skilled digital careers, helping bridge Scotland’s widening skills gap.

Over the past two years, Digital Xtra Fund has supported 33 initiatives enabling them to engage more than 20,000 young people. The Fund has previously supported Code Clubs in public libraries across Scotland; Apps for Good, which teaches young people to develop apps with social benefit; and VEX Robotics, a global robotics competition.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Our aim is to inspire young people to create technology rather than just consume it, and help them understand the huge range of future career opportunities these skills provide. These careers aren’t just in tech companies either, they are across all sectors including finance, hospitality, healthcare, and agriculture too.

Team Velocity“The Fund has already supported some brilliant initiatives and the results have been fantastic. For example, last year the Fund supported the Scottish F1 in Schools STEM Challenge which taught students to design, build, and race model F1 cars. From that, several teams qualified for the UK Finals in Silverstone with two all-girl teams from West Lothian now heading to the World Finals in Singapore, representing Scotland and Britain. This goes to show there is much untapped potential across Scotland which, with a little bit of extra support and expertise, is something we can easily unlock.”

Michael Hall, Senior Engineering Manager at Skyscanner who are a Key Partner of the Fund said, “Digital Xtra Fund is making a real impact and we are excited to be able to support digital skills initiatives from across Scotland. Inspiring the next generation to embrace digital learning and technology is vital for the future of Scotland’s tech sector, as well as our wider economy.”

WCS Coding Club - Gleniffer High, PaisleyDigital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners include Skills Development Scotland, Skyscanner, and Scottish Government, as well as Accenture, Baillie Gifford, BT Scotland, CityFibre, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, ScotlandIS, Sky UK, and Zonal.

The closing date for applications is 1 November and awardees will be chosen by a panel made up Digital Xtra Fund Partners and EdTech experts. Funding will be awarded to successful initiatives from mid-December 2018.

For more information about the Digital Xtra Fund grant awards, visit digitalxtrafund.scot/apply.

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14 Aug 2018

CityFibre tackles digital skills gap in partnership with Digital Xtra Fund

CityFibre, one of the UK’s leading infrastructure providers, has pledged its support in tackling the digital skills gap in Scotland.

The company – which has created Gigabit Cities in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling – is partnering with Digital Xtra Fund as part of a commitment to help young people across the country.

Young people benefit from digital skillsLaunched in 2016 by the Digital Scotland Business Excellence Partnership, a collaboration of public and private sector organisations, Digital Xtra Fund became an independent charity in March 2017. The Fund aims to ensure that young people have the opportunity to develop the skills required to thrive in the digital age regardless of their gender, background, or where they live.

The partnership will see CityFibre lend financial support, in turn allowing the Fund to boost exciting extracurricular digital technology activities across Scotland such as Stirling High School’s Digital Learning Hub in partnership with CodeBase Stirling, The Prince’s Trust’s #PTDigiDay in Glasgow as part of their Achieve Programme, or Angus Young Engineers’ CAD/CAM Café in Angus.

CityFibre has already shown its commitment to supporting a growth in digital skills across Scotland, having connected a number of schools to its full fibre networks. That infrastructure is laying the foundation for young people to use cutting-edge digital tools and unlock e-learning initiatives such as coding and app-building – skills which will only grow in value in the years to come.

James McClafferty, Head of Regional Development for CityFibre, said: “Digital Xtra Fund is playing a key role in helping young people learn the skills they will need to succeed in a digital future. It is crucial that they are supported by industry, which is why CityFibre is delighted to come on board as a key partner.

CityFibre helps connect schools across Scotland“The full fibre networks we are building across Scotland and the rest of the UK will be vital in helping to unlock the digital potential our young people have, and ensure they are not held back by our current infrastructure. As digital connectivity becomes more and more essential, we have to ensure our young people are capable of making the most of its potential. We look forward to working with Digital Xtra Fund and to identifying projects to support across Scotland.”

In addition to schools, CityFibre’s ultrafast networks are also accelerating the digital capabilities of businesses, local councils, libraries and community centres and the company is determined to help ensure Scotland becomes one of the world’s best connected places.

That vision is fast becoming a reality as CityFibre embarks on its partnership with Vodafone which will see cities transformed through the ‘Fibre to the Premises’ programme. This will bring Gigabit-capable full fibre to one million homes and businesses across the UK by 2021 – with Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Stirling among the first cities announced.

Recent research by economic consultancy Regeneris examined how the economy would benefit from full fibre connectivity, quantifying the impact to cities over 15 years. Across that time period – when many of today’s school pupils will be entering the employment market – there is a clear benefit to full fibre in areas including productivity, innovation, worker flexibility and health.

For example, in the four cities in Scotland where CityFibre is operational – Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling – there is a predicted £458m impact in terms of productivity and innovation.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund, said: “It is a very exciting time to partner with CityFibre as they begin to transform the digital landscape of the UK and bring gigabit speed connectivity to entire communities. The high-quality initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund will spark that first interest in digital technologies and equip young people with the skills and experiences they need to succeed in a digital age, but it is organisations like CityFibre who will help fuel long-term possibilities for the next generation.

“Key to a strong digital future is an environment where businesses big and small can develop and grow uninhibited by ageing technology and infrastructure. Unlimited bandwidth has the potential to change the digital landscape for today’s young people as much as email and mobile phones did for my generation.”

 

About CityFibre:

CityFibre is the UK’s leading alternative provider of wholesale full fibre network infrastructure. With dense duct and fibre footprints in over 40 cities throughout the UK, it provides a portfolio of active and dark fibre services to its customers which include service integrators, enterprise and consumer service providers, local authorities and mobile operators. CityFibre has also recently partnered with Vodafone to bring ultrafast Gigabit-capable full fibre broadband to up to one million UK homes and businesses by 2021.

CityFibre is based in London, United Kingdom, and is privately owned by a consortium of Antin Infrastructure Partners and West Street Infrastructure Partners, a fund managed by Goldman Sachs.
www.cityfibre.com

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09 Aug 2018

Micro:bit Educational Foundation provides additional support for initiatives backed by Digital Xtra Fund

I heart micro:bitMicro:bit Educational Foundation has donated 1,200 micro:bits to extracurricular digital skills initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund.

Six initiatives across Scotland will benefit from a total of 1,200 micro:bits as part of their support from Digital Xtra Fund. The hardware, donated by Micro:bit Educational Foundation, will enable Apps for Good, Inverness Science Festival, McLaren High School, CodeBase Stirling, The Prince’s Trust, and West College Scotland to deliver activities beyond the initial funded programme run and help inspire even more young people into digital technologies.

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation’s vision is to inspire every child to create their best digital future by enabling children around the world to get creative with technology and invent in their schools, clubs, and at home. Similarly, Digital Xtra Fund is striving to give every young person in Scotland access to digitally creative activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live by providing grant awards for exciting initiatives which inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not just consume it. Both organisations were created in 2016 and share very similar goals, presenting a natural opportunity to work together in Scotland.

Credit: Apps for Good

Credit: Apps for Good

The six initiatives received grants as part of the 2017/18 Digital Xtra Fund grant awards to deliver a variety of exciting digital skills initiatives across Scotland. Each have a unique approach to engaging young people with digital technology. For instance, Apps for Good teaches young people how to build, market and launch digital solutions to address challenges faced by their community and a total of 332 micro:bits will be distributed to nine schools across Scotland who have enrolled in their Internet of Things course. The course explores the benefits and potential issues surrounding IoT and introduces participants to the technology underpinning IoT devices. Students learn how to build circuits using sensors and actuators so that they can understand the principles behind the technology. Resources are based on the micro:bit and Arduino microprocessor boards, so having the hardware on hand is key to learning the material. Schools will also retain the hardware, allowing them to reuse it to deliver future activities.

During last year’s Apps for Good IoT course, the award-winning solution ‘SafeStep’ was created using micro:bits by students at Dunoon Grammar School. It consisted of a range of potentially life-saving rugs with inbuilt pressure sensors that determined if somebody had fallen and uses an app to alert carers or loved ones.

Credit: Micro:bit Educational Foundation

Credit: Micro:bit Educational Foundation

West College Scotland will take a different approach to engaging young people with the micro:bits sharing a total of 500 units between three new coding clubs at Renfrewshire secondary schools and 27 primary and secondary teachers who took part in a training session hosted by WCS in association with Microsoft Education, Renfrewshire Council, and Paisley YMCA. The session focused on increasing teachers’ confidence and encouraging the use of coding in the classroom with each teacher receiving a set of micro:bits for use in their classroom. This training is vital to creating a strong ecosystem of computing activities in Renfrewshire as these teachers will now manage the current coding clubs as well as initiate new ones with the assistance of STEM Ambassadors and senior school pupils.

Kavita Kapoor, Chief Operating Officer, Micro:bit Educational Foundation said, “The impact of this initiative has been shown to be very positive and the Foundation is very proud to have supported the scheme ”

Kraig Brown, Partnerships & Development Manager, Digital Xtra Fund said, “Since 2016, initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund have engaged nearly 20,000 young people across Scotland. The real legacy of the Fund will be a strong ecosystem of extracurricular activities who have the right hardware and educator confidence to continue giving young people the opportunity to get hands on and creative with technology. Support from organisations like Micro:bit Educational Foundation is key to achieving this legacy.”

Digital Xtra Fund is currently developing the 2018/19 grant awards supporting digital skills initiatives across Scotland, many of which use the micro:bit to engage young people. The Fund is supported by a range of industry partners who share a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world including the Micro:bit Educational Foundation. The Foundation is also in the midst of rolling out their biggest and most exciting micro:bit coding challenge to date – the global micro:bit challenge – and has commissioned Lancaster University’s Department of Educational Research to research ‘Using Micro:bit Devices in Teaching and Learning’. The study seeks to explore how teachers and students have been using the micro:bit to support teaching and learning in computing as well as in wider cross-curricular ways.

 

About Micro:bit Educational Foundation

Micro:bit Educational Foundation’s vision is to inspire every child to create their best digital future. The Foundation is enabling children around the world to get creative with technology and invent in school, in clubs, and at home. The micro:bit is a handheld, fully programmable computer that was rolled out across the UK in 2016. It’s 70 times smaller than the original BBC Micro computers used in schools in the early 1980s, and now it has built-in sensors, an LED display and a Bluetooth radio, so it’s instantly interactive.

Started by the BBC and a team of partners, Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a non-profit organisation continuing the micro:bit programme and bringing it to schools and children around the world. The Foundation was established with the support of our founding partners in September 2016. Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a UK based organisation and redistributes the bulk of any surplus money generated into providing free devices to exceptional micro:bit educational programmes across the globe.

http://microbit.org/

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