20 Jan 2023

Young digital engineers graduate from club at Fraserburgh campus

The following piece was written by Morag Kuc and originally appeared in The Scotsman on 20th January 2023


A class of young digital engineers has successfully graduated from a new after school Digital Engineering Club run by North East Scotland College’s Fraserburgh Campus.

The group attended a presentation to mark the successful completion of 10 weeks hard work and fun.

Each student received a certificate of participation from guest speaker Sam Buchan, Mechanical Engineer at Score Group plc.

The group of 14 pupils, from Fraserburgh and Mintlaw schools, was tasked with renewables and robotics projects.

Dr Leann Tait, Academic Improvement Lead said: “We have been delighted with the numbers joining the club and this first group of young engineers has been really engaged and eager to get involved.

“We wanted the club to be relevant to the North East, so incorporating the Renewable Energy Sector was an obvious choice.

“Combined with the robotics area pupils have had the chance to use equipment and technologies they don’t typically have access to.

“We have been fortunate with our funding from the Digital Xtra Fund and Science Aberdeen which have allowed us to run the club for an hour each week.”

The young engineers worked with different technologies including: AutoCAD software to design wind turbine structures as well as building models and looking at efficiencies of the different designs; Tinkercad, an online simulator to build physical circuit plus Dobot robots.

The Digital Engineering Club is based in the Fujitsu Innovation Hub at Fraserburgh Campus, a flexible and innovative digital learning space designed to promote active and collaborative learning through a dynamic and flexible layout.

NESCol is part of the Fujitsu Education Ambassador Programme which aims to enhance learning and teaching and unleash every student’s potential by putting digital technology at the heart of education.

Robin Macgregor, Vice Principal for Curriculum & Quality said: ”It is fantastic to see the Hub being used to help develop the digital skillset of local school pupils.

“Together with the fantastic equipment housed in our Future Skills Zone, funded through a generous donation by a local benefactor, Fraserburgh Campus is exceptionally well placed to help increase the digital confidence and skills of the surrounding community.”

The club is open to any student in S3 or S4 with a keen interest in engineering who is looking to learn.

The club, which is funded by Digital Xtra Fund as part of Round VII (2022/23) grant awards, will run again from Wednesday, January 25. To book your place contact [email protected] using code RCNDE-D222A

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05 Dec 2022

At what age can a child start coding?

The following piece was written by Marc Scott and originally appeared in Raspberry Pi Blogpost on 8th November 2022.


Coding, or computer programming, is a way of writing instructions so that computers can complete tasks. Those instructions can be as simple as ‘move a toy robot forwards for three seconds and then make a beep’, or more complicated instructions, such as ‘check the weather in my local area and then adjust the heating in my house accordingly’.

Why should kids learn to code?

Even if your child never writes computer programs, it is likely they already use software that coders have created, and in the future they may work with, manage, or hire people who write code. This is why it is important that everyone has an understanding of what coding is all about, and why we at the Raspberry Pi Foundation are passionate about inspiring and supporting children to learn to code for free.

When young people are given opportunities to create with code, they can do incredible things — from expressing themselves, to addressing real-world issues, to trying out the newest technologies. Learning to code also helps them develop resilience and problem-solving skills.

But at what age should you start your child on their journey to learn about coding? Can they be too young? Will they miss out on opportunities if they start too late?

No matter at what age you introduce children to coding, one key element is empowering them to create things that are relevant to them. Above all else, coding should be a fun activity for kids.

Learning programming

You might be surprised how young you can start children on their coding adventure. My own child started to learn when they were about six years old. And you can never be too old to learn to code. I didn’t start learning to program until I was in my late thirties, and I know many learners who decided to take up coding after their retirement.

Acquiring new skills and knowledge is often best accomplished when you are young. Learning a programming language is a little like learning a new spoken or written language. There are strict rules, special words to be used in specific orders and in different contexts, and even different ways of thinking depending on the languages you already know.

When people first introduced computer programming into the world, there were big barriers to entry. People had to pay thousands of dollars for a computer and program it using punch cards. It was very unlikely that any child had access to the money or the skills required to create computer programs. Today’s world is very different, with computers costing as little as $35, companies creating tools and toys aimed at coding for children, and organisations such as ours, the Raspberry Pi Foundation and our children’s coding club networks Code Club and CoderDojo, that have the mission to introduce children to the world of coding for free.

Getting hands-on with coding

By the age of about four, a child is likely to have the motor skills and understanding to begin to interact with simple toys that introduce the very basics of coding. Bee-Bot and Cubelets are both excellent examples of child-friendly toy robots that can be programmed.

Bee-Bot is a small floor robot that children program by pressing simple combinations of direction buttons so that it moves following the instructions provided. This is a great way of introducing children to the concept of sequencing. Sequencing is the way computers follow instructions one after the other, executing each command in turn.

Cubelets can be used to introduce physical computing to children. With Cubelets, children can snap together physical blocks to create their own unique robots. These robots will perform actions such as moving or lighting up, depending on their surroundings, such as the distance your hand is from the robot or the brightness of light in the room. These are a good example of teaching how inputs to a program can affect the outputs — another key concept in coding.

Visual programming

As your child gets older and becomes more used to using technology, and their eye-hand coordination improves, they might want to try out tools for visual programming. They can use free online programming platforms, such as ScratchJr on a tablet or phone or Scratch or Code Club World in a computer’s web browser. To learn more about these visual programming tools and what your child can create with them, read our blog post How do I start my child coding.

Children can begin to explore Scratch or Code Club World from about the age of six, although it is important to understand that all young people develop at different speeds. We offer many free resources to help learners get started with visual, block-based programming languages, and the easiest places to start are our Introduction to Scratch path and the home island on Code Club World. Children and adults of all ages can learn a lot from Scratch, develop their own engaging activities, and most importantly, have fun doing so.

Text-based coding

At around the ages of nine or ten, children’s typing skills are often sufficient for them to start using text-based languages. Again, it is important that they are allowed to have fun and express themselves, especially if they are moving on from Scratch. Our Introduction to Python path allows children to continue creating graphics while they program, as they are used to doing in Scratch; our Introduction to Web path will let them build their own simple websites to allow them to express their creative selves.

There is no correct age to start learning

In my time at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, I have taught children as young as five and adults as old as seventy. There is no correct age at which a child can begin coding, and there are opportunities to begin at almost any age. The key to introducing coding to anyone is to make it engaging, relevant, and most of all fun!

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02 Nov 2022

Scottish tech organisations join forces to bridge the digital skills gap

The following thought piece originally appeared in ScotlandIS Blog on 2nd November 2022.


A new partnership has been formed by ScotlandIS, Tech She Can, and STEM Ambassadors (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to address the Scottish technology skills gap.

The organisations are seeking to tackle a shared ambition to increase STEM education for school aged pupils, by improving collaboration between the programmes and accessibility for anyone who wants to get involved.

ScotlandIS’ ‘Digital Critical Friends’ programme, in partnership with DYW Glasgow and Skills Development Scotland, has been rolled out in several local authority areas to help meet the rapidly growing and changing skills demand within the Scottish digital sector. It connects school aged pupils with industry practitioners to support computing education, developing interest and abilities in digital technologies, with a view to increasing the digital skills talent pipeline. It also provides teachers with access to insight and support from industry, increasing knowledge and informing lessons.

Through the new partnership, STEM Ambassadors will provide PVG accreditation, making it much easier to become a Digital Critical Friend. With Tech She Can’s ‘Tech We Can’ educational resources now being provided to Digital Critical Friends, they can increase the support given to teachers to build knowledge and confidence in delivering tech related lessons, helping to inform students and inspire them to consider a career in STEM.

Karen Meechan, CEO of ScotlandIS, said: “Our aim when we started Digital Critical Friends was to ensure young people had access to practical knowledge, experience within the tech sector and exposure to the career opportunities available to them. This partnership with STEM ambassadors and Tech She Can will allow us all to work together to give young minds the opportunity to explore a future in tech.

“We’re calling for passionate individuals to get involved with the programme. It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to get invaluable mentoring experience by training the potential future pioneers of tech.”

The SSERC (Scottish Schools Education Research Centre) is a charity group which runs STEM Ambassadors.

SSERC CEO, Alastair MacGregor, said: “We’re delighted to be able to work alongside Tech She Can and ScotlandIS to provide such excellent opportunities for our STEM Ambassadors to help young people in Scotland consider a career in technology. STEM Ambassadors come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and by participating in the Digital Critical Friends and Tech We Can initiatives they are able to share those experiences with others.”

Dr Claire Thorne, co-CEO of Tech She Can, added: “We’re proud to be working in partnership with STEM Ambassadors and ScotlandIS to inspire more young people across Scotland to consider a future career in technology. Our Tech We Can Champions are all STEM Ambassador trained and we’re delighted that Digital Critical Friends can now also use our resources to inspire students about tech. Collaboration is key to improving diversity in technology and we’re excited about the potential of this partnership.”

The partnership is actively seeking volunteers from across Scotland to join the programmes, there are currently Digital Critical Friends programmes running in the South of Scotland, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, and East Renfrewshire still have some spaces in the Borders, East Dunbartonshire, and Glasgow.

Karen Meechan added: “In particular, we are looking to hear from tech experts across all digital professions who might be interested in helping. If you feel passionate about STEM education in our schools, get in touch.”

ScotlandIS, STEM Ambassadors and Tech She Can can be contacted for further information on how to get involved or take a look at the partnership page here.

For details on Digital Critical Friends specifically, visit: https://www.scotlandis.com/blog/help-us-help-them-critical-friends-programme/

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31 Oct 2022

Top skills you need for your tech recruits

The following piece was written by CodeClan and originally appeared in FutureScot on 17th October 2022.


Most software developers need specific ‘hard skills’, otherwise known as technical skills. They include things like programming languages and software testing. But developers also need ‘soft’ or essential skills – the ones probably already acquired through past work experience.

Take a look at the top three soft and hard skills young people need to become an effective software programmer. This list is not exhaustive, but it makes an excellent starting point.

Soft skills for software development

1. Problem-solving or analytic skills

As a software developer, they will frequently face technical problems to resolve. They will often encounter bugs in code. They might also need to develop new software solutions.

People with strong problem-solving or analytic skills are well-suited to this line of work. Good developers can analyse and summarise a problem before considering several angles and finding a solution.

Analytical skills are not unique to people who work in STEM. Most professional roles require critical thinking and gauging the best way to respond to an obstacle.

2. Time management 

Software developers often need to meet tight deadlines. They also need to keep abreast of the latest technical developments in their area of expertise.

Balancing deliverables with self-teaching requires strong time management skills. Organising and prioritising tasks are important though often overlooked aspects of a developer’s role.

Time management is an essential skill. How often do your recruits need to exercise time management skills in their role?

3. Communication skills

Developers rarely work in isolation. Rather, they are part of a wider team tasked with delivering a set project. That team will usually need to collaborate with other groups.

This makes strong communication skills highly desirable in a software developer.

Knowing how to ask the right questions, bring up challenges, propose solutions and get along with teammates are integral to the development process.

If they have ever had to give a presentation, contribute to a meeting or participate in teamwork, then this is a way to see how they have exercised their communication skills. The question is, How strong is their communication and does it fit into your organisation?

Hard skills for software development

1. Programming languages

There are literally hundreds of programming languages, which can make learning how to code seem a little daunting.

The five most popular programming languages for developers are JavaScript, HTML/CSS, SQL, Python, and TypeScript.

But that does not mean your new recruit needs to know all there is to know about these languages to become a software developer. In reality, most developers know a handful of programming languages, and they are constantly updating their knowledge of how to use them.

The best way to start? Learn the basics of one programming language. This is how CodeClan supports our career changers and upskills our partner network. We have a whole range of courses to help you.

2. Software testing and debugging

It is one thing to write code; it is another thing entirely to make it work.

Testing software is another key part of a developer’s role. There are specialists whose role is to design test procedures – often, developers must learn how to apply them.

Testing often reveals bugs in software. Developers need to identify what is causing the bug – they can then begin to find a solution – often by asking other teammates or turning to online forums.

3. Data structure

Data structures are methods of organising data to make performing operations more efficient.

Just like programming languages, there are different types of data structures, including arrays, stacks and queues.  Getting to know different data structures and learning which to choose is a key technical skill for software developers.

Final thoughts

Just like any other profession, software development requires a range of soft and hard skills.

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24 Oct 2022

Incremental provides continued support to Digital Xtra Fund

The following was published by Incremental Group on 19th October 2022 following the announcement of the 2022/23 grant recipients.


Incremental’s continued partnership with Digital Xtra Fund contributes to digital skills initiatives for young people in Scotland.

Incremental is proud to provide continued support to Digital Xtra Fund – a Scottish charity aiming to give every young person in Scotland access to digitally creative activities, regardless of background. Since the charity’s conception in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund has granted £875k of funding, backing digital skills initiatives in schools and public organisations.

This year, Digital Xtra Fund has been able to award 50% more funding than in 2021 due to funders like Incremental. The charity’s £150k of fundraising this year has been distributed via 35 grants in 24 local authorities throughout Scotland – spanning primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, universities, libraries and other educational bodies – reaching around 7,500 young people. Some examples of these fantastic digital skills initiatives include extracurricular clubs dedicated to coding, robotics, digital creators, engineering and inventing.

Incremental is dedicated to investing in Scotland’s young people, believing that learning digital skills is crucial in an evolving digital world. Alongside other funding partners like ScotlandIS and J.P. Morgan, Incremental hope to inspire the next generation through digital technology by working with Digital Xtra Fund to remove some of the access barriers that previously existed.

In 2021, only 16% of those enrolled in computing degrees at university were women, and Incremental’s partnership with Digital Xtra Fund seeks to narrow this gender digital skills gap by encouraging girls and young women into STEM subjects. For example, two of this year’s grant beneficiaries include a ‘Girls in Gaming’ club at North Berwick Library and an all-girls robotics club at Kirkliston Primary School in Edinburgh. Overall, the 35 initiatives funded through Digital Xtra Fund will reach 3,800 girls and young women. This aligns with Incremental’s commitment to gender inclusion in the workplace – you can learn about Incremental’s collaboration with Microsoft’s TechHer initiative, encouraging more women into careers in the tech industry here.

Kimberley Watson, Senior People Business Partner at Incremental Group said “As we enter the era of the digital imperative, it is crucial that the next generation are equipped with the necessary skills to thrive in a digital world. Digital Xtra Fund is doing an amazing job of inspiring young people to broaden their digital skills through meaningful (and fun!) digital initiatives, and we are proud to support this”.

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17 Oct 2022

Digital Xtra Fund awards 35 grants to drive digital skills initiatives for young people across Scotland

Digital Xtra Fund, a Scottish charity backed by both the public and corporate sectors, has awarded 35 grants to drive digital skills initiatives for young people across the country.  The 35 grants cover 24 different local authorities, including 23 primary schools, 3 secondary schools, 3 colleges and universities, 2 libraries, and 4 educational bodies, totalling £150,000.  The grants, which will help deliver digital skills initiatives throughout the current academic year, are up from 22 last year when total funding was £100,000.

Kraig Brown and Maha Abhishek of Digital Xtra FundKraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnerships and Development Manager, said: “We’re extremely pleased to be able to support many more initiatives this year, as well as a wider range of activities. This year’s applications show a renewed appetite for digital skills initiatives after a challenging couple years. We know we need to positively engage more of Scotland’s young people with digital tech to help them reach their potential in the future economy and an increasingly digital world, and extracurricular activities are the perfect medium to do this.”

Supported initiatives include a coding club at Hillside Primary School in Aberdeenshire, an all-girls after school robotics club at Kirkliston Primary School in Edinburgh in partnership with Scottish startup Robotical, a LEGO Leaders Code Club at St Joseph’s RC Primary School in Dundee, a coding club at Stromness Academy in Orkney using Otto robots, and a joint coding club with Cadder and St Mary’s Primary Schools in Glasgow.

Since being launched in 2016, Digital Xtra Fund has awarded £875,000 of funding, helping schools and organisations engage over 40,000 young people.

From the corporate sector, major funders include Baillie Gifford, CGI, Chroma Ventures, J.P. Morgan, and Scotland Women in Technology as well as Accenture, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, ScotlandIS, and Skyscanner.

Southmuir Primary School All Girls’ STEM Club and Digital Xtra FundSam Pattman, Philanthropy Manager, Baillie Gifford said: “Baillie Gifford is very pleased to continue its support of Digital Xtra Fund. Through our business, we know the importance of digital skills and ensuring young people are prepared for what’s ahead of them. Extracurricular activities can reach and engage a wider range of young people, as demonstrated by the variety of grant recipients this year. We have always been impressed by the charity’s ambition and its reach across Scotland, and look forward to hearing more from the supported initiatives as the year moves forward.”

Last year, Digital Xtra Fund also secured funding from the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland to match fund industry’s support, on the back of 2020’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review by Mark Logan which recommended that school stage extracurricular tech activities be strategically supported.

Business Minister Ivan McKee said: “The Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review called for action to encourage more young people and girls into Computing Science.  The Scottish Government’s £100,000 funding will support these 35 projects to drive digital skills development.  We hope this will inspire a new generation of tech entrepreneurs by boosting digital skills for young people across Scotland.”

The full list of grants awarded by Digital Xtra Fund this year can be found here.

 

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07 Oct 2022

It’s time to stop making excuses. Getting more women in tech must underpin efforts to create an inclusive digital economy

The following piece was written by Polly Purvis OBE, a Trustee and Chair for Digital Xtra Fund as well as Deputy Chair at Converge Challenge. She is also a former CEO of ScotlandIS and Chair of CodeClan. It originally appeared in FutureScot on 7th October 2022.


When Apple CEO Tim Cook made a rare appearance in London last month, he had one simple and very powerful message to share: we need more women in tech, and there is no excuse for failing to achieve gender equality.

Everyone wants a more diverse workforce and equity of opportunity, but there are some very specific reasons for requiring more women to join the sector.

At the most basic level, it is a simple matter of understanding and respecting your customer base. At least 50 per cent of global consumers are women, so when new products are being developed it is essential that women are involved from the design stage right through the process.

I’ve seen some software teams that really have no clue about how women will interact with their systems, and it is easy to see how AI can go on to perpetrate unintentional bias if the data on which they act is incomplete or worse still incorporates stereotypes.

We also need more women starting businesses. That is true not just of tech but across the board. One of the issues is that women tend to be more risk averse, but we need to consider how to harness that. More encouragement would also be welcome. Women are often early adopters of products, whether they be new foods or new tech, so there is an opportunity to actively engage with women and support them as entrepreneurs.

Education is a key challenge. For years women have been underrepresented in STEM university courses and occupations. It is estimated that only about 19 per cent of computer science students are female, and it is the same picture for engineering and technology. Female students make up more than a third (37 per cent) of mathematical sciences students, which is a relative improvement but still not good enough. Apple itself only has about 35 per cent women in its workforce.

CodeClan, Scotland’s industry-led and only SQA-accredited digital skills academy, has made good progress in recruiting and training women but the split is still about 60/40 in favour of male students.

One problem is that girls and young women, particularly around the late primary school and early high school stage, are receiving the wrong messages as part of careers advice. This isn’t always via the school – it can also be from parents who view other occupations as more appealing, for example financial services and law – so we need to redouble our efforts to promote computing science and technology as attractive, well paid career options.

And, despite the best efforts of the Scottish Government, we don’t have enough computing teachers. Graduates can earn three or four times more by going straight into software development and engineering, so it is not difficult to see why teaching is being left behind. But it is vital that we boost numbers and make computing as accessible as possible if we are to address the gender gap.

Extracurricular opportunities must also be supported. Digital Xtra Fund is a brilliant scheme that provides grants to organisations delivering digital and tech activities to young people across Scotland, such as dressCode, a charity which delivers lunchtime clubs for girls aged 11-23, focused on games design, web development and cyber security. SmartSTEMs is another excellent third sector organisation inspiring young people aged 10-14, especially girls, by hosting and organising events in schools. Making computing fun and exciting is important if we are to successfully engage with girls and other underrepresented groups – so let’s see this continue and expand further, as part of the plans.

Sadly, we still don’t have enough senior women in tech in Scotland but having positive role models in place is definitely helping to drive change. And we need to ensure women are at the forefront in all areas of tech from usability to software engineering, sales to project management – not just the areas which have traditionally been dominated by females such as HR. On a positive note, there is early evidence that more women are coming through in data science, but greater representation must be across the board. If that means embracing an element of positive discrimination, so be it.

Change isn’t going to happen overnight. There are many positive initiatives underway in Scotland, but societal shifts take much longer than we think and need a great deal of reinforcement. The next 10 years are crucial and what we do now will determine our future success as an inclusive digital economy that recognises and creates opportunities for all.

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30 Sep 2022

Developing Scotland’s Tech Skills – Karen Meechan

The following thought leadership piece was written by Karen Meechan, CEO at ScotlandIS and Trustee for Digital Xtra Fund. It originally appeared in The Scotsman on 30 September 2022.


This has been a year of change for Scotland’s tech sector. Costs are rising and a recession is forecast; businesses are trying to balance what works best on the spectrum of office to home-based working; talent is not as available as it might have been previously yet the desire to adopt new technologies and digitise the economy is stronger than ever.

Last week saw our first gathering of the Scottish tech sector at our annual event, ScotSoft, where we considered these challenges, and the opportunity that they could represent. ScotSoft brings together academics, researchers, students, visionaries, technologists, business leaders and managers working in digital companies and end user businesses in Scotland, the UK and further afield.

As part of the event, we recognise some of the best minds coming from our universities that demonstrate the strength and breadth of tech talent being developed within Scotland in our Young Software Engineer Awards.

An Abertay University student, Daniel Gearie, took first place at our annual Young Software Engineer of the Year Awards for creating software that can physically locate the position of a drone operator, as he and three other students were recognised for creating ideas which show an impressive combination of innovation, creativity and scalability.

From the discussion that happened throughout the day, it was widely agreed that the future business environment remains very challenging, and whilst the sector is set to continue to make significant contributions to Scotland’s economy, it is not immune to macro influences.

Indeed, the Scottish tech sector has already been subject to a long-endured skills gap, but the attractiveness of Scottish talent to London and Silicon Valley, and labour shortages elsewhere, are adding further complexities to the labour situation in our sector.

Just before ScotSoft, we conducted a pulse survey of the Scottish tech leaders amongst our membership. The results emphasised this challenge, while showing that the sector is working to address it. Three quarters of Scotland’s tech companies have increased benefits for their workers in the past twelve months, with nearly every single one (95%) doing so to make them a more competitive employer. For half, it was to help them retain existing employees too.

This challenge is just one reason why we cannot sit still. The good news is that there are a range of ways we can collectively contribute to the digital sector’s success.

Our digital technologies companies have always depended on Scotland’s excellent academic institutions to supply a steady stream of talent; on Government support and funding for innovation; on collaboration within the sector to solve common challenges; and on us as a trade body to create solutions for the issues that are most pressing.

That is why with Skills Development Scotland we created CodeClan and the Digital Xtra Fund, and why we are currently working on the roll-out of our Digital Critical Friends programme, which has been developed to help inspire and educate school aged pupils on STEM subjects.

With over a thousand of Scotland’s tech community under one roof last week, it was made clear that the appetite to work together to support and invest in our sector remains strong.

We must now harness that appetite to provide the sector with the talent, investment, and space for innovation that it needs to continue to thrive.

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28 Jun 2022

How a Kirriemuir school’s STEM club for girls is breaking down gender stereotype

The following post was written by and originally posted in The Courier.


Traditionally girls have been less likely than boys to go into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. But that’s a trend that one Kirriemuir school is helping to reverse by challenging the stereotype that girls don’t engage well with STEM subjects.

Southmuir Primary School has a STEM club exclusively for girls, which provides fun activities such as coding and robotics.

Teacher Karen-Ruth Phillips started the weekly club for P4 to P7s to allow girls to enjoy coding and STEM subjects in a creative way.

With grant-funding the school bought new robots and equipment and there has been great interest.

Karen-Ruth said: “Global current research points out that if we want to increase the level of female participation in computer science at secondary school level and beyond, we need to address it within the primary school setting.

“There have been many studies which suggest that girls may be more motivated by projects where the aims were more people-focused and targeted towards their interests.

“So we chose activities with a creative element, whilst still covering the basic skills and regularly monitored engagement.

“We did this by asking the girls to indicate their enjoyment level after each block of activities we completed over the year.”

 

Strictly Come Dashing

Activities girls liked most included making a virtual pet and a dance party where they coded characters to complete routines.

They even held a Strictly Come Dashing competition, where they coded dances for Dash and Dot robots and guests voted for their favourites.

Karen-Ruth said: “These creative approaches to the use of the robots encouraged the girls to persist in progressing through the Dash and Dot structured puzzle challenges.”

Girls earned digital badges and certificates and were given insights into potential future careers from women like games creator Laura Molnar, of 4J Studios, and cyber security consultant Kayleigh Gall, of CGI Glasgow.

 

What do the girls say?

Carly, 9, said: “I liked coding the Dash robots because they made me laugh. I loved doing the dance competition.”

Stacey, 9, said: “Some parts of the Code.org course were hard but I was determined to finish it. I enjoyed building and coding the VEX GO robots the most.”

Eve, 10, said: “Making the VEX GO robots, especially the Hexbug animals, was the best bit. I liked the way they moved.”

Erin, 8, said: “I enjoyed designing a coin flipping robot with our micro:bits. I would like to become a robotics engineer.”

Mya, 11, said: “The talks have made me consider a career as a games designer.”

 

The start of a STEM career?

Karen-Ruth said: “It has really ignited interest in the girls and opened their eyes to a whole new way of working.

“A survey that I conducted found that more than two-thirds of the girls would now consider a career in STEM, with 13% saying they definitely would do so.

“The girls themselves feel that the project has helped them develop their team work and resilience and has given them more confidence.

“What’s especially pleasing is to see them learn and get excited about coding, their enthusiasm has been a joy to watch.”

The club launch received a £5,000 grant from the Digital Xtra Fund, supported by IT and business consulting service CGI.

Kraig Brown, the charity’s partnerships and development manager, said: “Our goal is for young people to have access to innovative and digitally creative activities, regardless of their gender, background, or where they live, and this has been encapsulated perfectly by Southmuir.”

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23 May 2022

National roll-out of micro:bits to Scotland’s primary schools

The following article originally appeared on Micro:bit Educational Foundation website on 23rd May 2022.


Scotland’s Education Secretary celebrates world-leading investment in Computing Science at primary age with school visit. Methilhill Primary School in Fife, Scotland, welcomed Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, for a visit to meet children using the new micro:bit coding devices. The tiny computers are being given to all primary, secondary and additional support needs schools in Scotland as part of a landmark investment to improve the quality of, and participation in, computing science and digital literacy in Scottish schools.

Delivered by education non-profit, The Micro:bit Educational Foundation, the micro:bits are pocket-size entry-level coding devices that offer children an enjoyable entry into coding and computing science. There are over six million devices already in use across the globe, including most UK secondary schools. In the coming weeks, all primary schools across Scotland will receive twenty devices alongside a host of new teaching resources tailored for primary school level in a world-leading investment from the Scottish Government to develop digital skills in even younger children.

During her visit, Somerville saw the devices come to life in the hands of children aged between 6-8 in an exciting, interactive lesson around health and wellbeing. micro:bit ambassadors shared an insight into the wide range of capabilities the nifty devices offer, while teachers at the school explained first-hand how the new investment is helping integrate digital skills and computational thinking into lessons across the entire curriculum as part of the Scottish Government’s Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review programme.

Investing in future skills

Digital skills and computational thinking can greatly enhance a child’s creativity and life chances. However, recent research from The Micro:bit Educational Foundation found that 61% of primary school teachers in the UK responsible for teaching computing have no background in the subject, while three in five cite lack of resources as a barrier to teaching computing.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Scottish Government: “It has been inspiring to see first-hand how these devices can help to get children thinking creatively and to be enthused about technology. It’s an exciting prospect to imagine these scenes being replicated in schools all over Scotland in the coming weeks and months, and we’re proud to be leading the world in creating quality engagement in computing sciences among our young learners.”

Aimée Fagan, Head of Partnerships at Micro:bit Educational Foundation, said: “Digital literacy and computational thinking are increasingly important core skills, and we know the earlier you learn them, the better. Today has been a brilliant showcase of the possibilities micro:bits offer in the hands of younger children and how accessible they can make the first steps into computing.”

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Alix Rolland, Deputy Head Teacher at Methilhill Primary School, added: “We’re committed to embedding computing science and digital literacy into our classrooms, right across the curriculum. It’s been a joy to see the first of many micro:bit sessions at Methilhill Primary School today, and the support from Micro:bit has given our teachers the tools and confidence they need to get our children inspired by technology.”

About Micro:bit Educational Foundation

The Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation founded in the UK in 2016, with the aim of inspiring every child to create their best digital future.

We do this by:

·      developing hardware and software that inspires young people to get excited about technology and the opportunities it presents for them

·      creating free, user-friendly educational resources to support teachers in delivering engaging and creative lessons

·      working with like-minded partners to deliver high-impact educational programmes across the globe.

The micro:bit launched in the UK in 2016 by giving free devices to every S1 / Year 7 student as part of BBC Make it Digital, an unprecedented and highly ambitious project. It is now not only being used in most secondary schools to teach 11 – 14-year olds but is also popular with primary school teachers for 5 – 11-year olds.

The Foundation has donated micro:bits to key institutions, including the National Centre for Computing Education’s schools lending scheme in England, Digital Xtra Fund in Scotland, Ulster Universities and Libraries NI in Northern Ireland.  Through these schemes, approximately 30,000 devices were donated directly to schools, libraries and NGOs.

The Foundation offered up to 5,000 micro:bits to families in the UK wanting to continue learning at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Following a single tweet, the Foundation received 8,500 requests in 13 hours.

Editorial enquiries

You can contact the Micro:bit Educational Foundation at [email protected]

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