TeenTech City 2013
10 December 2013, by David Simons
If you listen to Click – the technology content put out by the BBC world service – you may have heard Maggie Philbin discuss TeenTech, an industry-led initiative to help give children inspiration and insight into the world of Science and Technology.
If not, you can hear it on the World Service page for a limited time. The recordings, made by Softwire MD Zoe Cunningham, were made at a stall designed and run by Softwire staff.
We had 30 minute slots designed to give a diverse set 12-14 year olds a taste of what it was like being a coder. With so little time, we wanted to ditch the academics and algorithmics involved in coding. Our aim was to reproduce an altogether more positive experience that most people at Softwire shared: the power you feel when you first hack together a programme that makes things happen.
The Softwire robots, previously seen in action at our ICT club, came along with 5 of our staff to the Copperbox Stadium (part of the old Olympic village). We used the built-in Lego Mindstorm software to avoid having to teach the students Python or anything else so intimidating in such a short space of time. Their mission was to use these building blocks and navigate our two robots – Spirit and Curiosity – around a small but deceptively difficult assault course representing the surface of Mars.
We were definitely surprised with how well they did – Rowan, our resident “techs-pert” took an hour to make the initial programme to navigate the course, and one of our groups put him to shame by almost equalling this feat in only 30 minutes! There was chocolate for anybody who got past the four checkpoints laid out for them so the kids were always motivated to push ahead regardless of their ability or prior experience
With only 30 minutes with each group, it wasn’t possible to give every child who came to our stall lots of experience and advice about technology. Our aims, and those of TeenTech are more simple than that: to ignite any spark that the prospective coders have; and to make them realise that nothing ought stand in their way of a path in science or technology.
For more information about TeenTech events around the country, including how to get involved, you can visit their website.