A robotics club from Port Ellen Primary School on Islay has been hailed by Digital Xtra Fund as a great example of what schools can do to equip the next generation with the vital tech and interpersonal skills they will need in the future.
Resilient Robotics was launched at Port Ellen Primary School in January by Class Teacher Jo Clark. A robotics club for children aged between 8 – 12, it teaches children how to code, create apps and build robots. Among other resources, the club uses Marty the Robot built by Scottish firm Robotical; an educational robot designed for kids.
Jo Clark, who submitted the school’s Digital Xtra Fund grant application, explains the idea behind Resilient Robotics was to create a robotics club where the children not only learn new technical skills, but also develop resilience, improve self-confidence and, most importantly, have fun.
She explains: “Developing children’s resilience and self-confidence is a key aim. Learning programming and building robots requires skills like investigating, debugging and perseverance. There is a lot of trial and error when it comes to programming; children need to know failure is part of the design process. Overcoming difficulties while creating robots develops resilience and, once they are successful, is also very rewarding.
“I think lots of children don’t understand the outcomes of being able to code, but once they see what they can achieve, they are hooked. They follow instructions, generate algorithms, and use their skills creatively, developing progressively more complex ways of working as they go on. From simple exploring with Spheros using apps, to building a responsive robot in Marty using Scratch, to more diverse and creative programming using the micro:bit Inventor’s Kit – the children are inspired and motivated.
“We are very pleased with the success of the programme and are especially delighted it is being adopted in neighbouring Primary schools and now at Islay High School. You can see how much the children are getting from it, and how much they are going to benefit from developing these skills at an early age.”
Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager at Digital Xtra Fund, added: “It is essential we equip children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in a technology-driven world, no matter what career or industry they may become interested in.
“What is especially fantastic about Resilient Robotics is the success it has achieved in terms of sustainability. The original grant from Digital Xtra Fund supported the pilot programme at Port Ellen Primary School, however, it was quickly realised there was an excellent opportunity to expand this initiative across the island, including at the High School, as well as on Mull and Jura. The fact that some of the resources are also being translated into Gaelic will only add to the project’s legacy. It’s a fantastic programme which will make a real difference in the lives of young people from the islands.
Brown adds: “Resilient Robotics is a shining example of the kind of initiative Digital Xtra Fund is looking to support. As a grant awarding charity, it is always the goal to see supported initiatives take root and grow and we hope other organisations and schools can take inspiration from its success.”
Digital Xtra Fund is currently accepting applications for the next round of grant awards. Grants of up to £5,000 will be awarded to organisations delivering extracurricular activities that teach young people skills such as coding, data analysis, cybersecurity, and computational thinking helping inspire Scotland’s next generation of technologists, developers and digital leaders.