Round I (2016/17)

A summary of the superb projects supported by Digital Xtra during the charity’s first round of grant funding

The inaugural round of Digital Xtra’s grant awards supported an innovative and diverse range of projects that included the use of wildlife cameras to help school pupils learn to code using Raspberry Pi computers, coding taught through local libraries, and a forensic investigation project.

All of these projects have demonstrated scalability, sustainability and innovation and most importantly are encouraging young people across the whole of Scotland to engage and participate in computing science related activities which build their digital skills.

Rampaging Chariots Guild and Selex ES Ltd.

Delivering a coding “module” for an existing STEM initiative for S2 pupils and above already active in over 250 Scottish schools.

Rampaging Chariots is a robotic project, sponsored by Leonardo and the IEE, and is aimed at firing up the interest in young people in technology and engineering by constructing radio controlled sporting robots from a comprehensive kit. The project has been active for over 10 years and well embedded in school Young Engineers Clubs and youth organisations

Students construct their robot in teams, test it, fit their rampaging chariot with a programmable raspberry Pi and other possible modules such as a robot arm, soil sampling and chemical analysis, and then control it using radio control.

This project focuses on teaching coding in a real-time environment

Scottish Libraries & Information Council (SLIC)

This project involves the training of public library employees to deliver Code Clubs to young people aged between 9 & 11 years across 28 of the 32 Local Authority Library Services, providing the opportunity for a minimum of 400 young people to engage in a 12-week programme of coding sessions.

A SLIC Project Officer working with the Code Club Scotland coordinator has developed a training programme for library employees that is specific to the existing Code Club model and materials. Each participating Library has nominate up to 5 staff to deliver coding sessions to young people.

Investing in developing the skillset of library employees ensures the ongoing continuity of the Code Clubs as there is always a supply trained leaders, rather than relying on volunteers, which is particularly important out with the central belt where securing and retaining volunteers is challenging.

Forfar Academy Angus Young Engineers

Building on a successful pilot with Strathmore Primary School, Forfar Academy has extended its project to work with a cluster of 8 Primary Schools to deliver after school digital skills clubs involved initially in First Lego League® (FLL) with delivery at a central training hub at the Academy

FLL is a mechatronic based coding project. Students work together to explore a topic and to design, build and programme an autonomous Lego® robot to solve a series of missions. Teams participate in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a  themed playing field (the game) and developing a solution to a problem they have identified (the project), guided by FLL core values.

Teams of P7 & SI pupils each work with an adult coach on a 12-16 week challenge. Over 100 children are engaged in the after-school activity and are working towards bronze CREST awards and digital skills open badges

Forfar Academy has ambitious plans to extend the project to more schools in the region.

The Princes Trust and Artronix

The “Achieve Digital” project supports 180 young people aged 13-16 to gain vital digital skills whilst encouraging them to consider a career in the IT industry.

Developed by the Princes Trust and Artronix, a series of digital industry skills activity days for “at risk” pupils aged 13 – 16 years who for a number of reasons cannot ordinarily access this type of activity.

The key elements of the project are: Digital Skills Days, Digital Work Experience with 25% of young people being placed into digital work experience and progression to positive digital outcomes for example taking computing science subjects in further education.

Over the Digital Skills day young people experiment and learn to build electronic Neuro Muscle, utilise electronic signal detecting DIT kit, and engage in coding and basic game design.

Apps for Good

The highly successful and valued Apps for Good programme involves young people aged 10 to 16 years in the design, build, market and launch of mobile, web and social apps to solve problems that young people care about in their communities.

Apps for Good are now extending their programme across the whole of Scotland, training teachers to deliver coding in school, and delivering Apps for Good Mini Couse outside of the school environment, reaching over 2,500 young people.

The programme, recently revised, now also includes an introduction to the “Internet of Things” course pilot and careers advice. Additional Scotland events are undertaken which feature a marketplace environment for young people to showcase their projects and entrepreneurial talent and be able to access a broader pipeline of opportunities to further their biz and tech skills

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Each year the Edinburgh International Science Festival delivers one of Europe’s largest science festivals, a primary school education programme across Scotland and a variety of international programming activities and projects.

One activity is the delivery of Lego Mindstorm workshops and digital skills for P4-S3 pupils across Scotland. At these events pupils code robots to follow commands and navigate a course, learning programming and then problem-solving to make the robot complete a series of challenges. One fun aspect of the activity is the rescue mission to retrieve a lost robot on Mars using sensors and coding robots to detect objects, distance and light.

The Festival has also extended its existing travelling Careers Hive to include hands-on digital skills activities for 3000 S1-S3 pupils from 35 schools in North Ayrshire, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Stirling, West Lothian, Borders, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Fife and Falkirk.

Ian Findlay Design/Troqueer Primary School

One of the smaller, but no less important, projects supported by Digital Xtra Fund is the online/offline coding activity for P4 – P7 pupils developed at Troqueer Primary School in Dumfries & Galloway by Ian Findlay Design.

This after school club offers one hour coding sessions using Hour of Code to pupils wishing to develop their skills in this area.  The success of the project, which saw double demand for places and a high completion success rate, has led to a model which has the potential to be extended to other schools in Dumfries & Galloway.

Inverness College UHI

This project also builds on the successful Lego Mindstorms® programme and involves the training by Inverness College lecturers of primary teachers and school helpers to enable them to teach computing science skills across the Highlands & Islands region.

Lego Mindstorms® are distributed to participating schools and delivered to pupils by their primary teachers with support from Inverness College UHI. Pupil sessions are delivered in schools hours with teachers encouraged and supported to operate either pre-school morning clubs, lunchtime clubs or after school depending on individual schools needs. Participating pupils have the opportunity to take part in the newly created Inverness College UHI Lego League.

Stakeholders in this project include Cap Gemini, ErPass, Dynamic Edge, FLL and the Science Skills Academy.

Scottish Council for Development & Industry and BT

This innovative project involves training teachers, particularly those who may have lacked confidence to teach computing subjects, to deliver the Tweety Pi programme – a coding and outdoor learning experience which records activity around a bird table.

Aimed at P6 – S2 age groups, the Tweety Pi programme challenges pupils to code a Raspberry Pi, firstly with Scratch and later with Python, to use a passive infrared sensor to detect motion around a bird table, which in turn triggers the camera to take photographs.

This approach to monitoring wildlife often engages teachers who are reticent about coding by giving them a tangible and practical application to focus on. After a successful pilot in 50 schools in Dundee, the Highland, Inverclyde, Moray and North and South Ayrshire, the programme is being extended to a further 30 schools in Dumfries & Galloway, Moray & Orkney which currently have no extracurricular computing provision.

The project also includes the provision of the Barefoot Computing resources through BT Scotland.

Midlothian Council and Volunteer Midlothian

Another project that involves the use of Libraries for the delivering of Code Club activities, with this one using senior secondary school pupils and adult volunteers, working with Midlothian Library employees as the trainers/hosts.

Several of the Clubs are located within disadvantaged areas and reach young people that would ordinarily not have the opportunity or be encouraged to participate in computing related activity.

Using the successful Code Club model, young people aged 9 – 11 years are initially taught to use Scratch before moving onto more advanced coding activities involving Python, Scratch operated robots and Lego® robotics.

One major benefit of this project is the impact that it potentially has on the 15+ year old secondary school volunteers who gain a whole range of soft skills through sharing their knowledge and training the younger pupils. It is hoped that this approach will provide a pathway from primary school through to secondary school and then beyond into FE, career or Modern Apprenticeship.

Queens Cross Housing Association and Glasgow Kelvin College

A partnership between Queens Cross Housing Association and Glasgow Kelvin College has led to the development of a wide range of workshops, activities and coding experiences for young people aged 9 – 16 years from disadvantaged areas in North Glasgow.

The workshops involve digital skills experiences using Minecraft®, Raspberry Pi, digital makers MakLab, where students learn how to design, fail, refine, create and produce an object, and an IT department work experience, all designed to offer a natural progression for the young person as they build their skills, confidence and enthusiasm for tech. QCHA also recruits some of the young people to its Youth Volunteering programme to assist in the delivery of the Minecraft sessions, which builds their confidence and skills and enables QCHA to continually produce ‘trainers’ for future sessions.

Amongst the many excellent experiences offered the young people is the opportunity to work alongside the skilled Queens Cross Housing Association IT team to gain ‘real life’ experience of a busy IT department, supporting more than 250 employees. During the day, the students explore differing technologies, offer their perspectives (as future tenants) on use of technology and even resolve a staged ‘IT Crisis’.

An important part of the project is the promotion of the activities to the wider community, allowing the young people to demonstrate the work they’ve completed to their parents which in turn leads to an understanding of the opportunities that technology and IT offers as a career.

Edinburgh College and Oracle

A very innovative project that is based on popular TV drama series such as CSI and NCSI. Edinburgh College and Oracle have developed a CSI Forensic Investigation course which involves computing, coding and digital media for secondary pupils aged 12 – 16.

The project aims to encourage pupils, particularly those not ordinarily or traditionally interested in computing science or STEM subjects, to participate in through the use of innovative digital content, based around a crime scene.

Offered to schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians, pupils engage in a variety of digital activities covering digital media production/editing skills, coding skills and computing skills during their first three sessions at Edinburgh College. On the fourth session pupils attend a crime scene investigation and using all the skills they have developed attempt to build a case against one of the suspects.

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