If you’re an engineer who’d like funding to support your own STEM outreach activities, apply now for I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here at imanengineer.org.uk/engineers
My winnings from the 2015 Energy Zone of I’m an Engineer, Get me out of here have now started to be put to good use! I’ve donated the money to Science Oxford who organise Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) outreach activities in Oxfordshire (and beyond). They’ve restarted a club that is close to my heart called the Creative Computing Club; in this incarnation they are using BBC micro:bits to teach children to code and understand a bit about computing in general – even down to the electronics level! The initial plan for the money was to fund places in the previous version of the club for girls on their (already quite cheap) sessions but only a few people took them up on this and half of them didn’t even turn up!
With lessons learnt in mind, the money has now been put towards hardware for the micro:bits to allow for more engaging projects. This January I helped Sarah at Science Oxford and some other amazing volunteers to run the free taster sessions for this new club. In this taster session we got kids, and sometimes their parent and grandparents, learning how to program the micro:bit with Python (my personal favourite programming language). They were making a heartbeat by displaying a pulsating heart image on the micro:bit itself and connecting a speaker to the output pins to make it pulse along with the picture.
This was all done in half an hour, with the session repeated 4 and a half times on the day. Only one person came to the last session so I’m counting it as a half… We received a load of positive feedback for the sessions and everyone I spoke to said they were going to come back for the full-fat hour and a half sessions starting at the end of February.
The specific hardware that’s been bought is micro:bit breakout boards, giving easy access to all of the general purpose input and output (GPIO) pins of the micro:bit. This is going to be particularly useful for the final project in this creative computing series of making a “MicroBot”. That’s a micro:bit controlled robot! There should be enough money from the I’m an Engineer money to buy a fair few robot chassis too. I think this club will be a big success and enthuse loads of children to learn more about the technology around them.
For up-to-date information on the creative computing clubs check out the Science Oxford website. Also, if you’re interested in doing stuff like this and you can’t make it to Oxford on Saturday mornings then I advise you to buy (or maybe receive for free if you’re a lucky year 7) a micro:bit to just get stuck in! There are loads of freely available tutorials and low cost bits of hardware making for a cheap, fun hobby!