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In May 2016, Skills Development Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, ScotlandIS and Education Scotland partnered to launch Digital Xtra, a brand new £250,000 fund.

It is part of a programme of activity dedicated to developing skills and making extracurricular computing activities available to all young people aged 16 and under, whatever their background and wherever they live in Scotland.

Created with funding from Scottish Government, Digital Xtra aims to support programmes to build further on Scotland’s existing network of extracurricular digital skills activities. Increasing access to computing activities for young people is key, with the fund seeking projects that help extend activities across Scotland and engage underrepresented groups, for example girls or those is rural areas.

The fund invited applications from existing initiatives looking to expand their activities, as well as from innovative new projects and pilots which have the potential to be scaled. Sustainability is a key consideration as Digital Xtra aims to fund projects with the ability to continue into the longer term.

Digital Xtra awarded funding to 12 projects with a range of approaches, from existing programmes extending their reach, to wider STEM programmes that will now feature a stronger digital skills element, as well as a number of promising new initiatives.

The projects selected for funding are open to pupils as young as 9 years old, with each one offering a new opportunity for young people to gain hands-on experience and develop digital skills.

The following 12 projects received funding:

Apps for Good

Apps for Good works with many local authorities to deliver an engaging coding course to school pupils aged 10 and above.

The initiative has been awarded funding to support and increase the number of schools delivering the Apps for Good Mini Course, while also building on its existing beneficiaries and developing its fellowship programme. Apps for Good expect around 2500 young people will benefit from the Scotland wide project to March 2017.

Apps for Good supports teacher training so that schools can challenge pupils to build, market and launch mobile, web and social apps that solve problems that young people care about. Pupils will be put to the test at a national competition where they can pitch their team’s idea to an industry professional with the prize of taking it to market.

The project is an opportunity for teachers to upskill and seek peer-to-peer support from other teachers in online continuous professional development (CPD) and event meet-ups.

The fund will also assist with a recruitment drive to increase Apps for Good’s fellowship community, which encourages Apps for Good graduates to remain involved in computer science and create a pathway for them to move into a career in the sector.

Edinburgh College in partnership with Oracle

Edinburgh College, in partnership with Oracle, will run a series of themed computing, coding and digital media sessions which aim to engage young people who previously may not have chosen STEM related subjects.

Over four weeks, up to 40 pupils from across Edinburgh and the Lothians will participate in workshops where they will learn a variety of digital skills. In the final week their skills will be put to the test as they are faced with their own crime scene investigation. Pupils will be given information, testimonies and an evidence box, and will be challenged to build a case against a suspect using their digital skills.

Participants will also receive an Edinburgh College/Oracle endorsed participation certificate at the end of the course, rated at SCQF level 4. Particularly successful participants will get automatic entry on one of Edinburgh College’s School College Partnership computing programmes or will be offered a position on its full time NC Computing with Digital Media course.

Edinburgh International Science Festival (EISF)

EISF will use its Digital Xtra funding to enhance its successful Generation Science and Careers Hive initiatives with advanced digital activities, expecting to reach a combined total of around 3500 young people aged 8 to 15 years across Scotland.

EISF will run enhanced versions of its Generation Science LEGO Mindstorms digital workshops for P4-P7 pupils, including two coding workshops and a series of coding challenges.

Pupils will learn to code in a fun way by programming their robots to follow commands, navigate a course and undertake challenges such as retrieving a lost robot on Mars.

EISF’s annual Careers Hive event will also be extended with a digital skills focus and engage S1-S3 pupils in a series of hands-on digital activities including coding and cyber security challenges.

Careers Hive volunteers will help pupils with the challenges and share experiences of their own jobs to offer a real life perspective.

Findlay Design and Troqueer Primary School

Following on from a successful initiative that saw exceptional demand for places and a high completion rate, this project aims to get young people between P4 and P7 engaged in digital with a series of online and offline coding activities.

Online sessions will teach young people about the basics of coding using the Hour of Code website.

Offline activities will introduce pupils to the concepts behind coding, such as creating clear instructions and breaking them down into individual stages. The offline sessions will consist of activities such as ‘coding’ a blindfolded classmate around a maze and working together to find a treasure chest.

The creative approach to activity design, with coding principles learned offline, allows a larger cohort of pupils to take part in coding initiatives than previously. Follow-up sessions will be delivered to help pupils overcome challenges and consolidate what they have learned.

Organisers expect that around 140 young people will take part in the initiative.

Forfar Academy Angus Young Engineers Club

After a successful pilot with Strathmore Primary School, Forfar Academy AYE Club is launching a sustainable and scalable after-school computing programme for P7 primary school cluster pupils, involving the FIRST LEGO League.

Forfar Academy will work with a cluster of eight primary schools to deliver the programme and expect to reach up to 360 Angus pupils in P7 and S1 to March 2017.

Eight P7 teams and two S1 teams, each comprising 10 pupils, will work with an adult coach on a 12-16 week challenge. Teams participate in the FIRST LEGO League by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field and developing a solution to a real world problem they have identified. The team that comes out top will go on to take part in the regional competition in the FIRST LEGO League.

In addition, up to 260 young people are expected to be engaged in STEM outcomes through the initiative’s wider transition programme.

The programme builds on the Strathmore Primary School FIRST LEGO League pilot, reaching pupils in rural schools and forging stronger links between schools in the cluster.

Inverness College UHI

Inverness College UHI will use college computing lecturers to train primary teachers and school helpers in the Highlands and Islands to deliver computing science skills to multiple cohorts of pupils, creating a sustainable teaching approach.

The programme will increase the number of pupils learning computer programming and the number of teachers able to teach programming across the Highlands and Islands. The College will develop LEGO Mindstorms teaching packs which will be distributed to target schools and delivered to pupils by their primary teachers.

Teachers will receive full support in the use of resources from the College and industry stakeholders when delivering the course. The College will also run four sessions throughout the school year where Inverness College UHI lecturers will train teachers on how to deliver the coding course.

Inverness College UHI expects to reach 360 pupils across six schools in the Highlands and Islands.

All schools will be invited to take part in the Inverness College UHI heat of the FIRST LEGO League competition, where schools will be challenged to build their own autonomous LEGO robot.

Midlothian Council in partnership with Volunteer Midlothian

This is a joint venture between Midlothian Council and Volunteer Midlothian who together completed a successful pilot project that taught pupils as young as seven to code through the Code Club Scotland model using Scratch.

Code Club will be extended in three Midlothian libraries - Gorebridge, Mayfield, and Dalkeith - giving up to 160 young people in S1 and S2 the opportunity to learn the basics of coding using the BBC micro:bit before working on more advanced activities using Lego Mindstorms robots and using languages like Python.

Using secondary school pupils as volunteers creates a route into digital for younger pupils and benefits the volunteers themselves by reinforcing their engagement with computing science.

Prince’s Trust in partnership with Artronix – ‘Achieve Digital’

Determined to open young people’s minds to the possibility of a career in the digital sector, Achieve Digital will use its funding to offer digital industry activities to young people, developing their computing skills whilst highlighting the range of careers in tech.

Achieve Digital expects to reach 180 young people aged 13-16 years, with a focus on a cohort of pupils who are not currently accessing this type of activity in the school curriculum.

The project extends to include digital industry days as well as work placements in tech firms, giving pupils hands-on experience of the sector. They will take part in interactive and practical skills-based activities including coding and basic games design. There will also be an opportunity for pupils to meet with employers, apprenticeship training providers and colleges to highlight potential career paths into digital.

Young people will learn how to build their own electronic Neuro Muscle and electronic signal detecting kit. Achieve Digital will use these exercises to show pupils how skills learned can relate to jobs within the industry.

The project will run in seven local authorities – Angus, Dundee, Edinburgh, Falkirk, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire.

Queens Cross Housing Association in partnership with Glasgow Kelvin College

This project consists of a series of workshops and experiences that will see up to 175 young people from North Glasgow get to grips with building computers and coding.

Weekly computing clubs for pupils aged 9-16 will build on the work of the Children’s Inclusion Partnership by encouraging pupils to code their own ideal community through Minecraft.

On top of this, there will be a Raspberry Pi workshop where pupils will use a Pi to set up and install Minecraft and a MAKLab workshop, which will offer hands-on experience of digital design using an interactive process and making use of technologies such as 3D printing and laser cutting. This will give children an understanding of the range of opportunities available to those with coding skills.

Pupils will also be given the chance to gain experience in a real IT department at Queens Cross Housing Association. Students will be able to explore the practical use of tech for housing and community projects and will have their problem solving skills put to the test in a staged IT crisis.

Rampaging Chariots Guild in partnership with Selex ES Ltd

Born out of its involvement with the original Robot Wars series, the Rampaging Chariots Guild has worked with school pupils for over 10 years and aims to build on its existing successful initiative with the addition of a new programming module.

Highly acclaimed by teachers, this is an exciting robotics project sponsored by Leonardo Company and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and aims to capture the interest of young people by introducing them to engineering and coding in a fun and engaging way.

Working in teams, pupils will be coached to construct radio-controlled sporting robots from a comprehensive kit – which can undertake tasks such as navigation – for use in a national competition against other schools.

The Digital Xtra fund will be used to pilot a new coding module, with robots mounted with a Raspberry Pi, enabling young people to learn programming with a practical and exciting outcome.

This new module will offer a platform for learning practical computer programming skills while experiencing the result in a real time environment. Organisers expect to reach up to 250 young people in five schools in Western Isles, Renfrewshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Scottish Council for Development & Industry in partnership with BT – ‘Tweety Pi’

Based on a pilot programme that launched ischools in 2015, this is a continuous professional development course for teachers to deliver Tweety Pi – a coding and outdoor learning experience with pupils challenged to log activity around a bird table.

The project will see up to 900 P6-S2 pupils across Scotland learn the practical application of coding with exciting results. It is expected to run in around 30 schools in Dumfries and Galloway, Moray and Orkney which are not currently delivering extracurricular computing science related activities.

Schools will take part in the Tweety Pi challenge which will see pupils use languages such as Scratch and Python to code a Raspberry Pi with a camera and motion sensor to log activity of the birds. The project’s connection with the outdoors brings the physical world and the digital world together. Its wildlife element aims to engage pupils and teachers alike, even if they have no prior experience of computing science activities.

The project is a good opportunity for teachers to boost their CPD by getting involved, and those learning will develop investigative skills, along with using problem-solving and decision-making skills when programming and evaluating data.

SCDI has partnered with BT to deliver Barefoot Computing resources as part of the teacher CPD.

Scottish Library and Information Council in partnership with Code Club

Building on the highly successful existing Code Cub model, SLIC has partnered with Code Club to train public library staff to deliver a fun, interactive coding course in 28 library services across Scotland. Up to 400 young people aged 9-11 years will have the chance to take part in the 12-week programme of coding sessions by March 2017

This sustainable initiative will train library staff as Code Club teachers to ensure the future continuity of the project. This is particularly important in areas where it has proved difficult to secure volunteers from the community.

Library services will nominate staff to attend coding training sessions and learn about the Code Club model, which employs the Scratch programming language. They will pass their new knowledge on to fellow staff members. By investing in upskilling library staff, this approach aims to overcome the common challenge of recruiting and retaining volunteers.

Libraries offer a universal service and clubs will be run outside school hours, giving them the potential to reach young people who are less engaged with activities in the classroom. It is hoped that the positive experience of learning to code at a young age will have a persuasive impact on pupils when they consider their future career plans.

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