23 Apr 2024

Leading tech education charity calls for Scottish tech sector to help safeguard Scotland’s digital future

Digital Xtra, a technology education charity, has seen demand skyrocket for after school coding clubs and wider STEM activities – yet it says unless industry make up a current government shortfall in funding, thousands of young people won’t have the opportunity to learn vital future skills. This is of particular concern considering recent figures which show a further decrease in the number of computing teachers across Scotland.

Digital Xtra’s Kraig Brown: “There has never been a greater collective realisation of the importance of digital skills for Scotland’s young people – but with government funding now unavailable due to budgetary constraints, we’re calling on the Scottish tech sector to invest in skills and work together to future proof local tech talent.”

Linlithgow, 23 April 2024 – Leading Scottish tech charity, Digital Xtra, has called on Scotland’s burgeoning tech sector to support the provision of extracurricular digital skills learning in schools and communities.

Over the past eight years the charity has funded 163 digital skills learning initiatives, to the tune of almost £1m, reaching nearly 55,000 young people across Scotland, from the Borders to the Outer Hebrides. However, funding from the Scottish Government for the next cohort of activities is unavailable and the charity fears the growth of digital skills, which is crucial to building Scotland’s future economy, will experience further setback.

Kraig Brown added: “Every role in our children’s future will require a degree of digital confidence and skill, and one of the biggest growth constraints for Scotland’s tech sector is a narrow talent pipeline. Excitingly, in an industry that struggles with gender balance, over half of the young people we support are girls –making for a potentially more representative future tech industry. However, without funding for these projects, thousands of Scotland’s young people won’t be able to take their first step to a future career in technology

Coding with Sphero Bolts at Kirkliston Primary SchoolDespite a shortage in computer science teachers, there are passionate educators across the country who run coding, robotics, and games development clubs, funded by Digital Xtra, because they understand how important these skills are to our young people’s future. But we’re facing a situation where we can fund less than half the number of projects we could just a few years ago. With government currently unable to provide us with the funding we received previously, we’re calling on the technology sector to step up to keep the momentum going.”

Some of Scotland’s leading tech names have already committed their support, including travel search site Skyscanner. The Edinburgh born firm has donated over £55,000, the single largest corporate contribution received by Digital Xtra to date. Other corporate partners include Baillie Gifford and Cirrus Logic as well as Accenture, Be Positive, DIGIT, Incremental Group, and FullProxy.

Andrew Phillips, Skyscanner’s Chief Technology Officer, who grew up in Aberdeen, said: “Without lots of digital skills provision at my own school, I taught myself computer programming, which kick started my journey into my role today. Scotland’s tech sector has the potential to be a leader in Europe, but from my own experience I recognise the systematic challenges we face. We have potential for our tech sector to grow even further – but without supporting young people to learn digital skills from an early age, we simply won’t have enough home-grown talent to do so.”

Digital Xtra appointed tech sector luminary Polly Purvis OBE, chair of Converge Challenge and formerly CEO of ScotlandIS, as chair last year.

Digital Xtra supported an all-girls Robotics After School Club at Kirkliston Primary School in Edinburgh in 2022/23 Picture by Stewart Attwood All images © Stewart Attwood Photography 2022. All other rights are reserved. Use in any other context is expressly prohibited without prior permission. No Syndication Permitted.Polly Purvis said: “The appetite for digital skills provision is huge – indeed, Digital Xtra has eight times the number of funding requests we’re currently able to support this year. The charity’s outcomes have been nothing short of transformational for so many young people and so many communities. At a time when the need for digital skills is only going to increase, and the Scottish tech sector and wider economy will be the main beneficiaries of a digitally skilled workforce, along with the young people themselves, we need even more investment from the private sector companies to generate the incredible output from organisations like Digital Xtra. Our ask of industry is to work together through the charity and provide additional funding this year so we can make the step change needed to fund many more of these brilliant projects.”

Last year’s grants from Digital Xtra included the ‘NextGen Coding Club’ by the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers in Aberdeen, ‘Roving Robots’ by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in the Western Isles, and an all-girls’ ‘DigiSTEM Club’ in East Renfrewshire.

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14 Feb 2024

Early and integrated approach key to tech skills puzzle – Karen Meechan

The following thought leadership piece was written by Karen Meechan, CEO at ScotlandIS and Trustee for Digital Xtra. It originally appeared in The Herald on 13th February 2024

Is there anything more frustrating than a jigsaw with a missing piece? You can see what the full picture should look like but, no matter how hard you try, you still don’t have a complete puzzle.

Despite the best efforts of many, the Scottish tech industry could find itself facing a similar frustration should a crucial part of its own puzzle remain missing.

In lots of ways the sector is currently flourishing. There are some fantastic companies pushing the boundaries of what is possible, emerging industries such as space and AI are all finding bases in Scotland and there’s a strong support network of academic institutions and innovation centres.

All of that may feel like it builds a pretty picture, and it does, but there is one significant gap: skills. Scotland is neither producing nor attracting the requisite talent for the sector to grow and achieve its full potential.

There are many reasons for this. The education system has struggled to keep up with the sheer pace of change. The scale of the sector’s demand for skilled workers would be challenging for even the most prepared industry to keep up with. And businesses all over the world are competing for the same fundamentally limited talent pool.

And that’s not to say that we aren’t producing some fantastic and very skilled people, we absolutely are; but demand is far outstripping supply. And failure to do something about the shortage of specialist skills will mean the growth of Scotland’s tech sector is stifled.

The problem is, there are no quick fixes. There’s no single silver bullet that will solve the problem and open the talent tap for the industry. This is a long-term problem that requires a long-term solution.

We must do what we can to attract the top-end tech talent to Scotland but, when you’re competing on an international stage, that isn’t always easy – something exacerbated by the recent changes to the tax regime north of the Border.

It’s more important than ever that industry and education are closely aligned from an early stage. This might mean offering more STEM opportunities during the early school years. But it also means making sure young people are aware of the employment opportunities available when they’re making key decisions about what routes to take.

Closer links to academia can also help. Ensuring the skills being taught at our colleges and universities are those most in demand at industry level should facilitate a smoother transition into entry-level positions.

It is only with joined-up thinking and collaborative action that we will do anything more than just apply a temporary sticking plaster to the problem. The reality is, when we talk about a “solution” to the skills crisis, it’s this kind of approach that we need to be looking at if the sector is to achieve its full potential. Anything less is going to leave the puzzle frustratingly incomplete.

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17 Oct 2023

Corstorphine Primary School’s coders of the future inspired by CGI and Digital Xtra Fund

The city of Edinburgh is known globally as a booming tech hub, with huge demand for job hunters looking for careers in coding, software development, and cybersecurity. As these opportunities continue to grow, it’s never been more important for those in education in the city itself to make sure its children are engaged in the world of STEM, technology and computing – in particular pupils of primary school age.

At Corstorphine Primary School, teacher Neil Stannett recognised the need to boost interest among pupils in coding and STEM in a creative way. As a result, he launched the Technicoders and Coding Club, made up of 10 boys and 10 girls from P6 and P7. The club began meeting every week to provide engaging ways to learn how to code.

Funding was gained thanks to a £3,000 grant from Digital Xtra Fund, a charity whose backers include global IT company CGI. Digital Xtra Fund’s mission is to provide all young people in Scotland with the chance to learn meaningful digital skills such as coding or robotics through extracurricular activities, especially those who otherwise would not get the opportunity to do so.

The school was able to purchase a classroom set of Sphero BOLTs with the grant from Digital Xtra FundThis allowed Corstorphine Primary to buy new Sphero BOLT coding robots and equipment which made the learning environment of the club come to life. Together with iPads for pupils provided by CGI through City of Edinburgh Council’s Edinburgh Learns for Life, the club members’ love of all things coding has been transformed, with huge levels of interest and engagement.

Mr Stannett said: “I was excited at the prospect of being able to support our new pupil group to learn about coding, and experiment creatively with robotics. Thanks to the grant from Digital Xtra Fund, we were able to purchase a set of 15 Sphero BOLTs in a travel charging case, along with a variety of accessories to go with our school sets of micro:bits.

“The BOLTs were ideal for our pupil group to learn with as they can be coded using different programming languages. They are also just great fun. The club itself was formed just before we purchased the robots. We were incredibly lucky to have a number of pupils who were keen to support the school with its digital journey.”

Staff from CGI tell members of Corstorphine PS's Technicoders Club about their career journeys in techMr Stannett said the support of Digital Xtra Fund has been transformative, as has Edinburgh Learns for Life’s iPads. The pupils can use the iPads not only in their everyday work, but also for coding the Sphero BOLTs. They were also given insights into future potential careers from those already working in STEM among Digital Xtra Fund’s backers. These included senior managers from CGI, a global IT firm with local roots that supports communities across Scotland.

Lyndsey Teaz, Vice President, Glasgow Metro, and Andrew Fournet, Commercial Manager and Co-Chair of Environmental Task Force Space Scotland, visited to give a special talk on how their company uses space technology to provide technological solutions for clients and also saw first-hand the amazing projects that the club had been involved with.

Mr Stannett carried on: “Sharing our work with and hearing about the career paths of Lyndsay and Andrew, and the work they are involved with, opened their eyes to the almost limitless possibilities a keen interest in technology can take you.

“Also, the Edinburgh Learns for Life iPads have provided a real benefit to learning. It meant that we didn’t have to worry about booking out a set of school iPads each week and the members of the Technicoders Club could jump right in each lunchtime with their own devices.

“It also meant they could save their projects to their own account and not have to worry about finding the same iPad each week, which also increased a sense of ownership.”

Learners from Corstorphine Primary School show what they've learned with their new Sphero BOLTs and Apple iPadsWith a club split 50/50 between boys and girls, Mr Stannett noticed different ways in which they engaged with the BOLTs and iPads. He said: “The group was mixed in terms of interests, as some preferred to explore the story-telling capabilities of the robots, while others were more interested in the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how each coding programme worked.

“Overall through, the Technicoders Club boosted interest in coding and computing not only among pupils, but staff in the school too. I often had teachers asking me how some of the programmes worked and I ran a Micro:bit training session for interested staff members.”

The pupils were also keen to pass on what they had learned to other younger years, also ‘lighting the fuse’ of interest among them.

He continued: “We decided to set up a P5 Code Club. One of the stand out moments from the group for me has to be when, during our initial sessions with the P5s, a small group started creating a spooky story using the text-speech function on the iPads and had the Sphero BOLT move across a haunted house drawn on paper on the floor.

“This instigated the next few weeks of learning, as all the groups began creating stories and using their robots to move through a setting or act as the main character. I was so impressed at the creativity and innovation on show.”

It was also heartening that, in a sector where men outnumber women in careers, the club’s girls enjoyed coding as much as the boys.

Mr Stannett concluded: “I think it is fantastic that a lot of old-fashioned stereotypes around technology are dying out and anyone can head into any career they want to.

“I have no doubt our Technicoders could step into any career path linked to technology. They all demonstrated a fantastic drive and sense of ‘what can I do to make this work?’ These positive attitudes will take them much further than just knowing a set of coding skills.”




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03 Oct 2023

Digital Xtra Fund delivers 26 grant awards totalling £110k to local tech and coding clubs for young people across Scotland

Digital Xtra Fund will be awarding 26 grants totalling £110,000 to local tech and coding clubs across Scotland this year. The grants span 18 local authorities, with an outreach of approximately 3,000 children and young people.

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnership and Development Manager said: “We received 143 applications this year, compared to 94 last year and around 60 per year before Covid. This clearly shows an increasing determination to positively engage young people with tech both in and out of the classroom. We also saw a higher percentage of applications for local, community-based tech and coding clubs as opposed to larger events. These clubs usually run for 6-8 weeks multiple times a year, allowing educators to create a more enriching and impactful experience for learners. This year’s initiatives are also, once again, planning to engage a higher percentage of girls than boys. This is incredible and shows the value of extracurricular activities like these.”

This year’s grants include the ‘NextGen Coding Club’ by the Association for Black and Minority Ethnic Engineers in Aberdeen, ‘Roving Robots’ by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in the Western Isles, an all-girls’ ‘DigiSTEM Club’ in East Renfrewshire, the ‘Hillhead Digi Den and Technology Playground’ by Hillhead Primary School in Glasgow, ‘Tech Sheds’ at three libraries in Midlothian, and the ‘St Andrews RC Primary Coding and Robotics Club’ in Dundee.

This marks the eighth cohort of tech initiatives since Digital Xtra Fund was launched in 2016. The charity supports extracurricular activities at the primary and secondary school stage to drive digital skills and has secured nearly £1 million for tech clubs and initiatives around the country since its inception.

The Benzies Foundation and Outplay Entertainment are two new backers for 2023/24, joining a list that includes Baillie Gifford, CGI, Chroma Ventures, and J.P. Morgan as well as Accenture, Cirrus Logic, Incremental Group, ScotlandIS, and Skyscanner. The Scottish Government will once again contribute £100,000 to the Fund in 2023/24, including matching industry support.

A spokesperson for Outplay Entertainment said: “The Outplay Academy is thrilled to partner with Digital Xtra Fund in supporting local tech and coding clubs for young people across Scotland. Our commitment to fostering creativity, innovation, and inclusion aligns perfectly with the values of the Outplay Academy and the mission of Digital Xtra Fund. Together, we look forward to empowering the next generation of digital leaders and inspiring them to reach new heights in the world of technology.”

Digital Xtra Fund will also soon launch Code Like Kids, a new learning and development opportunity aimed at industry and corporate executives. “We see companies become more connected to supported projects after active participation”, Kraig Brown explains, “however, we also received feedback that while they were keen to engage with young people, staff were anxious doing so being unfamiliar with tools such as block coding or the kit found in many clubs, so we created Code Like Kids. Then we realised it was also a fantastic team building and learning opportunity for all companies.” Participants will get hands-on with popular devices such as micro:bits, Sphero indis, LEGO SPIKE Prime, or Marty the Robot while also building skills such as teamwork, creativity, and problem solving.

Brown added: “Companies will be able to book a Code Like Kids session with a donation to the Fund meaning not only will they be giving their staff a fun and unique experience, but they will also be enabling more tech activities for young people across Scotland. It’s a win-win.”

(Headline image from recent Insp-Hire event by SmartSTEMs and Nine Twenty. Photographer: Malcolm Cochrane)

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24 Aug 2023

Digital Xtra Fund is looking for a Community & Grants Officer

Girls STEM Club at Southmuir Primary SchoolAn exciting and unique opportunity is available for a motivated individual to join Digital Xtra Fund as a Community & Grants Officer. The Officer will support grant recipients in achieving their targets, outcomes, and objectives and will explore new opportunities to engage and excite young people in tech. The preferred candidate will have a passion for technology as well as previous experience working with schools or educational organisations or working for a grants provider focussed on young people.

Role Title: Community & Grants Officer

Salary: £27,500 PA (one year initial FTC with potential to renew dependent on funding)

Hours: Monday – Friday, 09.00 – 17.00 (happy to discuss flexible working options)

Location: Opportunity for Remote or Office-based working (Linlithgow)

Reports to: Partnerships & Development Manager

Application closing: 23:59 on Thursday, 28 September 2023

Digital Xtra Fund is happy to discuss flexible working including working from home, compressed hours, reduced hours, or flexitime.

The Officer’s main focusses will be to:

  1. support grant recipients enabling them to deliver high-quality, extracurricular activities which teach digital skills (i.e., coding, robotics, and games development) and meta-skills (i.e., adaptability, resilience, and creativity) as well as concepts such as ethics of technology and tech for good;
  2. help build a community among grant recipients, the Fund’s partners, and other key stakeholders by promoting collaboration and sharing best practice as well as facilitating and managing industry engagement opportunities (both in-person and remote);
  3. help deliver ‘Code Like Kids’, a new learning and development opportunity from Digital Xtra Fund which engages industry professionals in fun, play-based coding activities. Participants will get hands on with some of the most popular coding devices used by young people while exploring how these platforms relate to the ‘real world’.

The role’s responsibilities will include, but not necessarily be limited to:

  • Help grant recipients achieve their targets, outcomes, and objectives by encouraging partnerships, sharing resources, and highlighting best practice as well as organising one-to-one catch-ups during the delivery period (25%);
  • Increase collaboration with the Fund’s industry partners by facilitating industry engagement opportunities and supporting the delivery of various ‘Code Like Kids’ modules (25%);
  • Support the Partnerships & Development Manager with optimising the end-to-end delivery of the annual grants cycle including planning, promotion, delivery, evaluations, and reporting (25%);
  • Assist with the Fund’s marketing and communications channels including social media, direct emails, and newsletters (15%);
  • Assist with organising events or similar opportunities with supported initiatives/partners/key stakeholders to facilitate networking and knowledge sharing (5%);
  • Explore other opportunities or collaborations which support digital skills for young people (5%)


Required Skills

  • Experience working for an educational organisation that actively supports young people; or working/volunteering with schools, especially as a teacher/educator; or working for a grants provider focussed on young people. This experience would ideally relate to the areas of science, technology, engineering, or maths (STEM), but it is not essential. Key is the ability to demonstrate a passion for helping young people
  • Clear and concise communication skills with the ability to relate to a variety of organisations from grassroots community groups, charities, and schools to larger businesses, industry partners or government departments
  • Effective administrative and organisational skills including the ability to demonstrate previous experience managing multiple projects
  • The ability to work both in a team and independently and capability to proactively take the initiative when required
  • Confidence using basic office software such as Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace
  • Occasional attendance at events which may occur outwith normal working hours
  • Some travel within Scotland will be required


Other Desirable Skills

It would be beneficial if you also possess some or all the following skills, but they are not essential to apply for this role:

  • Confidence using digital technologies (especially any coding, robotics, and/or games design platforms aimed at young people)
  • Understanding concepts related to digital tech such as meta-skills, ethics, or tech for good
  • Knowledge of or experience in the Scottish digital tech sector and/or an awareness of skills policies from the Scottish Government or Skills Development Scotland related to digital tech
  • Familiarity of WordPress (or similar web content management system), Mailchimp (or similar email marketing platform), and/or Capsule (or similar CRM system)
  • Full UK Driving Licence


Personal Qualities

  • Enthusiastic about the importance of STEM education for young people
  • Methodical and strategic thinking in approach to work
  • Positive and innovative self-starter
  • Projects a professional image of the Charity at all times



  • £27,500 per annum (initial one-year full time contract with potential to renew dependent on funding)
  • Flexible working options available including working from home, working outwith normal working hours or reduced hours/days (salary would be prorated accordingly)
  • Matched employee pension contributions to a maximum 5% following probationary period
  • Onsite parking and gym at main office in Linlithgow
  • Holiday entitlement of twenty-five (25) days per year in addition to eight (8) Scottish public holidays


Coding with Sphero Bolts at Kirkliston Primary SchoolAbout Digital Xtra Fund

Digital Xtra Fund is the leading Scottish charity supporting extracurricular digital tech activities for young people. We finance and support initiatives which engage and excite young people aged 16 and under with skills such as coding, robotics, games development, cyber, or data science. We believe every young person should have access to fun, innovative, and meaningful tech activities regardless of their gender, background, or where they live as well as an understanding of the range of opportunities these skills provide. The aims of Digital Xtra Fund are to:

  • inspire young people to understand and create with technology, not simply use it
  • enable exciting extracurricular digital tech activities across Scotland
  • engage industry experts with young people to help contextualise digital skills


A full job description can be downloaded here. Please contact the Fund at [email protected] if you have any questions about the role. Please note, applicants must have the right to live and work in the UK (and be able to provide evidence).

To apply, applicants should submit a Cover Letter summarising why they are interested and qualified for the role as well as their CV to [email protected]. Applications will close at 23:59 on Thursday, 28 September, 2023. Successful applicants will be contacted w/c 9th October to schedule an interview.


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24 May 2023

Incremental continues to help inspire the next generation into tech

The following was published by Incremental Group on 22nd May 2023 in the lead up to the 2023/24 Round VIII grants cycle.

Incremental Group continues its support of Digital Xtra Fund and grassroots STEM initiatives for children as a Megabyte Partner for fifth consecutive year.

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, equipping young minds with the necessary skills and knowledge is crucial to ensuring a prosperous future. Recognising this imperative, various initiatives across the UK have emerged to engage and empower children in the field of technology.  Digital Xtra Fund (DXF) is a Scottish-based charity that provides grant awards to organisations delivering extracurricular computing and digital tech activities to young people across Scotland.

Since launching in 2016, DXF has placed a strong emphasis on promoting diversity and inclusion within the technology sector, helping to close the digital skills gap in Scotland. By actively engaging children from underrepresented backgrounds and creating a supportive environment, the Fund’s mission is to ensure opportunities are accessible to all. With a focus on areas of high deprivation and female participation, DXF aims to break down barriers to tech at a grassroots level. This inclusive approach not only enriches the learning experiences for those involved, but also contributes to building a more diverse and vibrant tech industry.

The impact of DXF has been far-reaching, having distributed £875,000 in support of digital skills initiatives across Scotland to date. In its latest round of grant funding (2022/23), which Incremental also supported, DXF awarded 35 extracurricular tech initiatives grants of up to £5,000 each. With a projected engagement of 7,488 children and young people – including 3,929 girls and young women – the 35 grants cover 24 local authorities, including:

  • 23 primary schools
  • 3 secondary schools
  • 3 colleges/universities
  • 2 libraries
  • 4 additional educational bodies.

Incremental is proud to be extending its support of Digital Xtra Fund for a fifth consecutive year, further helping to support  and inspire children across Scotland. As well as being a Megabyte partner of the charity, Incremental once again proudly hosted the Fund’s Evaluation Meetup on the 18th May in its Glasgow office. The meetup brings together over 50 of DXF’s panelists from the technology industry to assess and award grants to fund applicants. .

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnerships and Development Manager, commented, “One of the Fund’s first partners, Incremental, believes in Digital Xtra Fund’s vision of industry, government, and the third sector working together to give every young person in Scotland an opportunity to learn key digital skills and understand how these skills relate to an increasingly digital world. On behalf of Digital Xtra Fund and the many tech initiatives we have supported, I would like to thank Incremental Group for its continued support. We look forward to working with you for another year.”

In a time of rapid technological advancement, supporting digital skills initiatives for children is crucial. To find out more about Incremental’s wider commitment to STEM initiatives, discover our article: STEM Ambassadors in Scotland.

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20 Apr 2023

Digital skills gap to be tackled as new tech clubs aim to address a shortage of key skills

The growing demand for digital skills in the Scottish economy is to be addressed with support to create a new series of tech clubs across the Highlands region.

Skills Development Scotland (SDS) is working with the Scottish Government and Highland Council on the initiative which aims to train volunteers, provide teaching resources, and tech kit as well as trial online delivery to ensure people in rural areas don’t miss out.

The pilot programme kicks off on 27 April when the first ever hybrid tech club event for Highland secondary school pupils takes place. Participants will “code a data selfie” learning data science and coding skills to create their own unique piece of art.

Phil Ford, Head of Digital Economy and Financial Services at SDS said: “The digital skills gap in Scotland has now become critical and many tech jobs go unfilled every year.

“This is particularly true of the Highland economy where digital skills and jobs are now essential in non-tech sectors like agriculture, energy, tourism, food and drink and the creative industries.”

The expansion of tech clubs across Scotland was a key recommendation of the Scottish Tech Ecosystem Review, which was followed by last month’s publication of the Digital Economy Skills Action Plan.

Beth Brown, Senior Lead Manager for Developing the Young Workforce at Highland Council added: “Tech clubs can help young people develop vital digital skills, particularly for those who may face barriers in accessing formal tech subjects in the curriculum.

“The clubs offer an enriching experience for all young people regardless of background and skill. There are some fantastic tech clubs in Scotland, and we want to see more of these in the Highlands.”

Partners involved in the initiative hope to encourage technology experts and companies, schools and colleges, the third sector and community groups like libraries and youth clubs to get involved and improve the career prospects of young people in the Highlands.

As a key partner of Digital Xtra Fund, Skills Development Scotland’s tech club resources – which can be used outwith the Highlands as well – will be hosted on the Fund’s website for anyone interested starting or volunteering at a tech club near them. For more details, please visit www.digitalxtrafund.scot/directory-of-resources.

A short video is available here explaining more about digital tech clubs and the support available.

Highland secondary school classes can sign up here for the first hybrid tech club event on 27 April.

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06 Feb 2023

Digital Xtra Fund invites applications for initiatives to drive digital skills for young people across Scotland

Digital Xtra Fund has opened applications for its eighth cohort of tech initiatives since being launched in 2016. The charity supports extracurricular activities at the school stage which help drive digital skills. To date, the Fund has secured almost £1 million to deliver coding and tech clubs and initiatives nationwide.

Industry backers include Chroma Ventures, Baillie Gifford, J.P. Morgan, Cirrus Logic, Accenture, ScotlandIS, Skyscanner, and Incremental Group which was acquired by Telefonica Tech last year. The Scottish Government will once again match industry support in 2023/24.

Kraig Brown, Digital Xtra Fund’s Partnership and Development Manager said: “We have some amazing support from the corporate and public sectors, in particular the Scottish Government, who realise what a pressing issue this is for young people, employers, and the economy overall. Based on the success of previous grant awards, they have once again committed to working with us and our partners by match funding industry support for tech activities in 2023/24. With the ongoing cost of living crisis, there has never been a more crucial time to work together and this funding underlines this.”

Coding with Sphero Bolts at Kirkliston Primary SchoolDigital Xtra Fund is currently in negotiations with several companies to increase the level of funding awarded before successful applications are finalised in May, but the economic downturn has put a strain on all charities. Kraig Brown added: “We are looking for more partners, primarily from the corporate sector, so we’d love to speak to as many people as we can in the coming months. The match funding from the Scottish Government means all support will make a big difference.”

Rebecca Court, Incremental Group’s Head of Marketing and a former Digital Xtra Fund panellist, who help the Fund select which applications are successful, said: “Digital Xtra Fund undertakes such important work across Scotland. The team’s commitment to addressing the alarming digital skills gap while also focusing on increasing diversity and inclusivity in the tech sector, a sector that continues to be underrepresented by women, is key to everyone’s future success. It is vital the corporate sector and government recognise that when we support grassroots initiatives, especially for young people, it is win-win for communities, industry, and Scotland as a whole.”

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Higher Education and Further Education, Youth Employment and Training, said: “Following last year’s investment from the Scottish Government, we will be continuing to support the Digital Xtra Fund with another £100,000 this year to enable young people to learn digital technology and coding skills through extracurricular activities.  The work of  Digital Xtra Fund and partners provides young people a path into exciting careers in tech and entrepreneurship, and we are delighted to be supporting the work of this organisation.”

Sphero Bolts at Kirkliston Primary SchoolDigital Xtra Fund is supporting 35 initiatives during the current 2022/23 academic year covering 24 local authorities. These initiatives are on target to engage over 7,400 young people, of which approximately 50 per cent will be girls and young women.

Kraig Brown continued: “Yes, our aim is to inspire young people to learn digital skills and yes, we hope they choose to pursue a career in tech, but that’s not the main reason we do this. We do this because we need to support young people and even more so when times get tough, particularly the most vulnerable or disadvantaged. While there are many ways to do this, Digital Xtra Fund believes providing essential skills for their future in safe and fun environments is key.”

 Schools or organisations interested in applying to the Round VIII grant awards for activities delivered during the 2023/24 academic year can apply on Digital Xtra Fund’s website. Applications close on 06 April 2023. Additional support, including guidelines for applying, case studies, and links to upcoming webinars can also be found on the Fund’s website.

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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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