Castlewood Primary Code Club takes off!

Castlewood Code Club were not messing around when they decided to enter the latest Astro Pi competition. To prepare for their aviation-themed experiment, they set out to Gatwick Airport, where they went on a private tour of a Boeing 777.

Read about the adventures of this ambitious Code Club whose experiment will soon be travelling to space — talk about a meteoric rise!

When Castlewood School Code Club in Horsham decided to enter the Astro Pi competition, they needed to come up with an idea for an experiment. Around the same time, club volunteer Gavin Hewins discovered that teacher and club host Sharon Burchett had previously worked as an aircraft maintenance engineer for British Airways — the same role that Gavin has with British Airways today. An aviation-themed Astro Pi experiment therefore was a natural choice!

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777 versus ISS

Astro Pi’s Mission Space Lab is a competition that gives students the opportunity to design code experiements to be run on the International Space Station (ISS). Therefore, Castlewood School Code Club planned an experiment to compare life in space with life aboard a Boeing 777. This required the children to develop a basic understanding of the sensors, computers, and equipment aboard the aircraft. Given this, Gavin approached British Airways about bringing the Castlewood Astro Pi team (or team STEAMCademy, as they are better known) to visit an aircraft at Gatwick Airport.

Inside a Boeing 777-200

On 9 January, an excited team STEAMCademy arrived at Gatwick Hangar 6, where they began their internal tour of G-VIIR, a British Airways Boeing 777-200. In the flight deck, the kids learned how to read sensor data using the aircraft’s onboard instruments and computers. Then they had a go at ‘flying’ the aircraft by inputting data into the autopilot and observing the resulting movement of the control column. The kids also explored the Main Equipment Centre below the cabin floor, and checked out the many computers a Boeing 777 needs to fly. The computer that attracted their attention most was the Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU) — basically a very big, very heavy, and VERY expensive Sense HAT!

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The Code Clubbers continued their education with a tour of the cabin, where many ceiling panels had been removed, allowing them to see components that are normally hidden. This included the famous Black Boxes — which are in fact coloured orange! They also had a good look at the In-flight Entertainment System, in particular the animated map that would be relevant to their project. Finally, Gavin gave team STEAMCademy a tour of the aircraft’s outside, focusing mainly on the external sensors that supply data to the ADIRU.

The 90 minutes in the hangar flew by, leaving the children hungry for more information. The whole visit was a great experience for them, and proved invaluable to their Astro Pi entry! Castlewood Code Club is very grateful to all the people at British Airways who helped make this visit possible.

Update: we are really pleased to say that the club’s entry for Astro Pi’s Mission Space Lab was successful, and their code will soon be on its way to the ISS!

Ready to take off?

Being part of the Code Club community is about so much more than our projects! If you want access to lots of extra opportunities for your club, including competitions and swag giveaways, then make sure that you have activated your club.

Check out this article to find out how to get activated. You can also reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or email us at support@codeclub.org.uk if you have questions.

Original text by Gavin Hewins

Starting a Code Club in a rural school in Ghana

In February of 2018, a new Code Club was set up at Bosomtwe International School in Ghana. Code Club volunteer Clement Cheah tells us how he came to travel from his home in Switzerland to West Africa to help them get started.

In 2009 I learned about a school in the heart of rural Ghana. The school was set up by former professional football player and local Ibrahim Oubda, and lessons were taught outside under a tree, or in a wooden hut.

Bosomtwe International School

Bosomtwe International School in Ghana

Since then, new buildings and classrooms have been built, and the school now has a new name: Bosomtwe International School (BIS). Inspired by their progress and my own experiences, I wanted to give BIS students an opportunity to learn IT and coding skills. Supported by friends, I started a project to equip the school with hardware, including 20 Raspberry Pi computers.

During my first trip to the school, I was warmly welcomed by students and teachers. One student, Ernest, particularly stood out. Ernest was not only passionate about computers, but also about aeroplanes, and he promised that in 10 years, he would fly me somewhere.

I’d never set up a computer room in a rural school, and though I had lots of ideas, there were plenty of things I hadn’t planned for. My allocated room was in a building without electricity, but with help from an electrician and after several trips to town (about an hour away), the IT room was set up with power. Computers were new to the students, and so the ICT teacher’s first goal was to teach them how to type on a keyboard and use a mouse. I travelled back home to Switzerland, happy that we’d made a good start!

Soon after my return, I discovered Code Club at the BETT show and was impressed by both the resources and by how easy it was to start a club. I remembered Ernest, and wondered if he would enjoy coding. I shared the idea of starting a Code Club with the BIS’s ICT teacher, Bismark, and he was very supportive. Therefore, my new goal was to start a Code Club during my next visit in February 2018.

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Ernest, the ‘Computer Man’ at BIS

Back at BIS, I introduced Code Club and Scratch programming to Bismark and to Ernest, who by now was known as the ‘Computer Man’ at the school. Both found Scratch very user-friendly and were confident they could use it to continue the BIS Code Club. We put up Code Club posters and gave Code Club stickers to the excited students who came to try Scratch.

I am extremely happy that Ernest and his friends have this opportunity to learn coding. In the future Ernest could become a pilot, a software engineer, or even the next tech entrepreneur — who knows! I do know that BIS students (and teachers) are now learning to code thanks to the support of Code Club and the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I encourage everyone to start a Code Club in their community, or even in communities far away where the lives of children and their communities can be improved through learning a new skill: coding!

Feeling inspired?

There are Code Clubs in more than 140 countries around the world! Start one in your community now by heading to www.codeclubworld.org.

Volunteering Week: students get kids coding in Leicester

Across the UK, Code Club Regional Coordinators work closely with colleges, universities and other higher education institutions to get students started as Code Club volunteers.

Our East Midlands Regional Coordinator, Katharine Childs, tells us about working with De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester to get local Code Clubs up and running.

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I’ve been cooperating with De Montfort University since 2016 to support student volunteers and help children in local schools learn coding skills. I first came across their student volunteers at a DMU event, and was really impressed by their enthusiasm and their credo that everyone can help make a difference in the locality where they study.

#DMULocal

I joined forces with #DMULocal, a DMU initiative that promotes positive change across Leicester. Together, we created a plan to train students and sign up schools to start clubs using Code Club’s free resources and support. This year I’ve run two training sessions at the university to introduce students to the Code Club projects and Scratch, and to provide tips and ideas on how to run Code Club sessions.

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One of the Scratch animations that the student volunteers from De Montfort University worked on with the kids.

I also met Mason Day, a Business Management undergraduate at the university who works part-time as a Project and Outreach Assistant on the #DMULocal programme.  Mason coordinates all the coding activities and matches students to schools. I asked him why he thought it was so important for students to get involved in volunteering. He said:

Universities such as De Montfort University (DMU) have a major responsibility to contribute to society through their public engagement and to bring about positive change for the public good. #DMUlocal is enabling even more DMU students to make a real difference in their city by utilising and sharing their knowledge to meet some of the most critical challenges facing Leicester by helping to improve children’s education, supporting the wider community, and boosting the local economy.

During this academic year, 38 De Montfort University students are volunteering in 13 different schools to inspire a new generation of children to be coders, creators, and digital makers. All the students will gain valuable experience to add to their CVs, as well as strengthening their own digital skills. A huge thank you goes to Mason for all his work, and to the students for being amazing role models for children in Leicester.

Get involved

If you work for a local college or university and would like to talk to us about how your students can volunteer for Code Club, get in touch with us at hello@codeclub.org.uk.

If you are a student who would like to volunteer at a local club, getting started is really simple. No coding experience is required — just click here to register, and you can start looking for clubs in your area straight away.