I recently spent a day at the Malvern Festival of Innovation – introducing pupils to physical computing and computer programming.
The event was in co-operation with STEMNet (who arrange the background checks and provide support) and The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) (who provided all the materials and equipment on the day).
The event was held at the Three Counties Showground. When I arrived the event was already setup with 10 Raspberry Pi computers. This allowed up to 20 pupils at a time with two pupils at each computer. We had 5 schools attending 1 hour session throughout the day.
The pupils were provided with a worksheet describing how to wire up the circuit and step-by-step instructions walking them through writing a simple Python program and explaining how the code worked.
At the end of the session most of the pupils managed to create a simple reaction timer game using an LED, switches and the Raspberry Pi.
We were on hand to deal with an issues and problems that the pupils came across. This was usually that a wire was inserted into the wrong position on the breadboard or Raspberry Pi, or a typo in the code which was usually found by comparing the line they had typed with how it was written on the worksheet. I also spent some time talking to some of the teachers who were run a similar activity in their schools.
It was a fairly long day to spend on your feet, but it was very rewarding. This was the first time many of the pupils had created any physical computing and most of them appeared to enjoy the experience.
There are many opportunities for hands on activities throughout the year, providing mentoring and training using technology based skills. Previous programming experience is not required although is useful. The materials were all provided with full details of what was required and most of the others helping on the stand did not have much programming experience. The main thing was lots of enthusiasm and applying simple logical reasoning. There were others on hand with more experience if anyone got stuck.