Teaching with Raspberry Pi Pico in the computing classroom

Raspberry Pi Pico is a low-cost microcontroller that can be connected to another computer to be programmed using MicroPython. We think it’s a great tool for exploring physical computing in classrooms and coding clubs. Pico has been available since last year, amid school closures, reopenings, isolation periods, and restrictions for students and teachers. Recently, I spoke to some teachers in England about how their reception of Raspberry Pi Pico, and how they have found using it to teach physical computing to their learners.

A student uses a Raspberry Pi Pico in the computing classroom.

This blog post is adapted from issue 18 of Hello World, our free magazine written by computing educators for computing educators.

Extra-curricular engagement

At secondary schools, a key use of Raspberry Pi Pico was in teacher-led lunchtime or after-school clubs. One teacher from a girls’ secondary school in Liverpool described how he introduced it to his Women in Tech club, which he runs for 11- to 12-year-old students for half an hour per week at lunchtime. As this teacher has free reign over the club content and a personal passion for Raspberry Pi, his eventual aim for the club participants was to build a line-following car using Pico.

On a wooden desktop, electronic components, a Raspberry Pi Pico, and a motor next to a keyboard.

The group started by covering the basics of Pico, such as connecting it with a breadboard and making LEDs flash, using our ‘Getting started with Raspberry Pi Pico’ project guide. The teacher described how walking into a room with Picos and physical computing kits grabs students’ attention: “It’s massively more engaging than programming Python on a screen… They love the idea of building something physical, like a car.” He has to remind them that phones aren’t allowed at school, as they’re keen to take photos of the flashing lights to show their parents. His overall verdict? “Once the software had been installed, [Picos are] just plug and play. As a tool in school, it gives you something physical, enthuses interest in the subject. If it gets just one person choosing the subject, who wouldn’t have done otherwise, then job done.”

“If it gets just one person choosing the subject, who wouldn’t have done otherwise, then job done.”

Teacher at a Liverpool girls’ secondary school

Another teacher from a school in Hampshire used Picos at an after-school club with students aged 13 to 15. After about six sessions of less than 50 minutes last term, the students have almost finished building motorised buggies. The first two sessions were spent familiarising students with the Picos, making LEDs flash, and using sensors. In the next four sessions, the students made their way through the Pico-focused physical computing unit from our Teach Computing Curriculum. The students worked in pairs, and initially some learners had trouble getting the motors to turn the wheels on their buggies. Rather than giving them the correct code, the teacher gave them duplicate sets of the hardware and suggested that they test each piece in turn to ‘debug’ the hardware. Thus the students quickly worked out what they needed to do to make the wheels turn.

A soldered Raspberry Pi Pico on a breadboard.

For non-formal learning settings such as computing and coding clubs, we’ve just released a six-project learning path called ‘Introduction to Raspberry Pi Pico’ for beginner digital makers. You can check out the path directly, or learn more about how we’ve designed it to encourage learners’ independence.

Reinforcing existing computing skills

Another key theme that came through in my conversations with teachers was how Raspberry Pi Pico can be used to reinforce learners’ existing computing skills. One teacher I interviewed, from a school in Essex, has been using Picos to teach computing to 12- to 14-year-olds in class, and talked about the potential for physical computing as a pedagogical tool for recapping topics that have been covered before. “If [physical computing] is taught well, it enhances students’ understanding of programming. If they just copy code from the board, it becomes about the kit and not how you solve a problem, it’s not as effective at helping them develop their computational thinking. Teaching Python on Pico really can strengthen existing understanding of using Python libraries and subroutines, as well as passing subroutine arguments.”

“If [physical computing] is taught well, it enhances students’ understanding of programming.”

Teacher at an Essex secondary school

Another teacher I spoke to, working at a Waterlooville school and relatively new to teaching, talked about the benefits of using Pico to teach Python: “It takes some of the anxiety away from computing for some of the younger students and makes them more resilient. They can be wary of making mistakes, and see them as a hurdle, but working towards a tangible output can help some students to see the value of learning through their mistakes.”

Raspberry Pi Pico attached with jumper wires to a purple LED.

This teacher was keen for his students to get a sense of the variety of jobs that are available in the computing sector, and not just in software. He explained how physical computing can demonstrate to students how you can make inputs, outputs, and processing very real: “Give students a Pico and make them thirsty about what they could do with it — the device allows them to interact with it and work out how to bend it to what they want to do. You can be creative in computing without just writing code, you can capture information and output it again in a more useful way.”

“Working towards a tangible output can help some students to see the value of learning through their mistakes.”

Teacher at a Waterlooville school

One of the teachers we spoke to was initially a bit cynical about Pico, but had a much better experience of using it in the classroom than expected: “It’s not such a big progression from block-based microcontrollers to Pico — it could be a good stepping stone between, for example, a micro:bit and a Raspberry Pi computer.”

Why not try out Raspberry Pi Pico in your classroom or club? It might be the engagement booster you’ve been looking for!  

Top teacher tips for activities with Raspberry Pi Pico

  • Prepare to install Thonny (the software we recommend to program Pico) on your school’s or venue’s IT systems, and ask your IT technician for support.
  • It takes time to unpack devices, connect them, and pack them back up again. Build this time into your plan!

Free learning resources for using Raspberry Pi Pico in your classroom or club

Teachers at state schools in England can borrow physical computing kits with class sets of Raspberry Pi Picos from their local Computing Hub. We’ve made these kits available through our work as part of the National Centre for Computing Education. The Pico kit is perfect for teaching the Pico-focused physical computing unit from our Teach Computing Curriculum.

Qualified US-based educators can still get their hands on 1 of 1000 free Raspberry Pi Pico hardware kits if they sign up to our free course Design, build, and code a rover with Raspberry Pi Pico. This course shows you how to introduce Pico in your classroom. We’ve designed the course on the Pathfinders Online Institute platform, specifically for US-based educators, thanks to our partners at Infosys Foundation USA. These Raspberry Pi Pico kits are also available at PiShop.us.

For non-formal learning settings, such as Code Clubs and CoderDojos, we’ve created a six-project learning path: ‘Introduction to Raspberry Pi Pico’. This path is for beginner digital makers to follow and create Pico projects, all the while learning the skills to independently design, code, and build their own projects. All of the components for the path are available as a kit from Pimoroni.

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Get kids coding and learning electronics with Raspberry Pi Pico

Since the release of the Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller in 2021, we have seen people all over the world come up with creative Pico-based inventions.

Raspberry Pi Pico with its inbuilt LED blinking.
The Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller.

Now, thanks to our brand-new and free ‘Introduction to Raspberry Pi Pico’ learning path, young coders can easily join in and make their own cool Pico projects! This free learning path has six guided projects to help kids to independently develop their coding skills, and their skills in physical computing and electronics.

A girl creates a physical computing project.
Physical computing is a great way to help young people get creative with coding.

In this post, I’ll tell you about Raspberry Pi Pico, what kids can make by following our free ‘Intro to Pico’ path, and what skills they will be learning.

Meet Raspberry Pi Pico

Raspberry Pi Pico is a physical computing device that is low-cost and easy to use. It’s much smaller than any Raspberry Pi computer, and it needs much less power. That’s because it’s not a full computer but instead a microcontroller. That means Pico is a device that you program by writing code on any computer, and then sending that code to Pico via a USB cable.

Raspberry Pi Pico has GPIO pins (like Raspberry Pi computers do). These pins mean it can interact with different types of physical computing components, such as buttons, buzzers, and LEDs.

In the ‘Intro to Raspberry Pi Pico’ path, we’ve designed new digital making projects specifically using Pico. By following the projects in the path, young people learn to make things with different electronic components. They’ll bring to life their own LED fireflies; they’ll make music with a sound machine and dial (a potentiometer); they’ll look after themselves and people around them by making a mood indicator and a heart rate visualiser. To find out more, visit the path, or scroll to the bottom of this post and click on ‘Details about the projects’.

The specially designed structure of our learning paths helps kids become confident and independent coders and digital makers. Through this project path, we want to show young people what is possible with Raspberry Pi Pico and inspire them to continue their digital making journey beyond the six projects. Seeing tech creations from our amazing community is super special to us, and we would love to hear about what your young coders have made with Pico. Kids can share their projects in the path gallery, or you can tag us on social media if you post photos!   

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Learning skills and independence with our project paths 

While young people make all these Raspberry Pi Pico projects, they will learn the skills and independence to make and code their very own, unique creations with a Pico. We have designed our new project paths to help kids become independent digital makers. As they progress through a path, kids gain new skills, practise what they have learnt, and finally write and follow their own project brief. 

Our learning paths help kids develop many of the skills that are important to all coders and digital makers, no matter how much experience they have: 

  • How to turn an idea on paper into a tech creation
  • How to debug a project
  • How to combine new information with what they already know about digital making 

The learning paths also encourage kids to make projects about the things that matter to them.  

Key questions answered

Who is this path for?

We have written the projects in this path with young people around the age of 9 to 13 in mind. 

Programs for Raspberry Pi Pico are written in a text-based language called MicroPython. That means a young person who wants to start the ‘Intro to Pico’ path needs to be familiar with typing on a keyboard.

A young person codes at a Raspberry Pi computer.

If your kid has never coded in a text-based language before, they could complete our free ‘Introduction to Python‘ project path first, but this is not a prerequisite.

What will young people learn?

To help with the programming aspects of the projects, the instructions in the path tell young people about:  

  • Displaying output
  • Arithmetic expressions
  • Importing from a library
  • While loops
  • Nested if statements
  • Defining and calling functions
  • Events
Raspberry Pi Pico attached with jumper wires to a purple LED.
We still get excited by a flashing LED.

One of the great things about this project path is that it helps young people explore physical computing and electronics. In the ‘Intro to Pico’ path, they’ll use:

  • Single-colour LEDs
  • Multi-colour LEDs (so-called RGB LEDs)
  • Buzzers
  • Switches (including switches the kids will make out of craft materials!)
  • Buttons
  • Potentiometers (dials)

How much time is needed to complete the path?

We’ve designed the path to be completed in around six one-hour sessions, with one hour per project. However, the project instructions encourage kids to upgrade their projects and go further if they wish. This means that they might want to spend a little more time getting their projects exactly as they imagine. 

What software is needed for the projects?

Young people need a web browser so they can follow the project instructions. The first two projects in the path provide detailed instructions for how to install the free software needed for the projects. 

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The projects in the path show you how to program Raspberry Pi Pico using MicroPython in the Thonny software.

What hardware is needed for these projects?

The first step of each project lists what components are needed to create the project. You can purchase a kit from Kitronik or from Pimoroni that includes all of the components used in the path:

‘Intro to Raspberry Pi Pico’ kit list (click here)

  • 1 × soldered Raspberry Pi Pico
  • 1 × USB cable
  • 1 × red LED
  • 1 × blue LED
  • 2 × yellow LEDs
  • 6 × single-colour LEDs (random)
  • 3 × RGB LEDs
  • 15 × 75 ohm resistors (max 220 ohm)
  • 2 × potentiometers
  • 8 × push buttons (optional, these can be made from crafting materials)
  • 15 × pin–socket jumper wires
  • 38 × socket–socket jumper wires
  • 4 × pin–pin jumper wires

What can young people do next?

Explore Python coding with us 

If your young coders enjoy MicroPython, they’ll also love our Python learning paths: ‘Introduction to Python‘ and More Python‘. Both are structured in the same way as our Pico path, and will help young people learn Python while creating their own visual designs.

A girl points happily at a project on the Raspberry Pi Foundation's projects site.
Details about the projects in ‘Intro to Raspberry Pi Pico’

The ‘Intro to Raspberry Pi Pico’ path is structured according to our Digital Making Framework, with three Explore projects, two Design projects, and a final Invent project. You can also check out our learning graph to see the progression of skills and knowledge throughout the path.

Explore project 1: LED firefly



The ‘LED firefly’ project introduces creators to Raspberry Pi Pico while they make their first project with a blinking LED. They program the LED with a blink pattern that is common to fireflies in the wild. To upgrade their projects, creators can place their LED firefly into a glass jar to create a twinkling effect.  

Explore project 2: Party popper



‘Party popper’ introduces creators to the RGB LED and a buzzer. To form the popper, they craft a pull switch out of kitchen foil and cardboard. When the popper is activated, the RGB LED flashes in their chosen colour, and a ‘tada’ sound plays on the buzzer. 

Explore project 3: Beating heart



‘Beating heart’ uses a potentiometer (dial) to control the pulsing speed of an LED. Creators craft their own hearts using red paper and origami before placing the pulsing LED inside. In this way, they create a model of a heart they can use to learn about medicine or to bring to life a favourite toy. 

Design project 1: Mood indicator



In the ‘Mood indicator’ project, kids use switches and an RGB LED to create a device that can communicate a need or a mood to another person. This Design project gives young creators lots of opportunities to use their new skills to create something personal to them.

Design project 2: Sound machine

 




‘Sound machine’ is a project for kids to work with the different tones that a buzzer can make. They can use the buzzer to create sound effects, or to recreate their favourite songs. Once they have decided on their sounds, they can think about how a user of their project might choose to play them. 

Invent project: Sensory gadget

 




This project gives creators that chance to pick their favourite elements of the path to create something totally unique to them. They could make all sorts of sensory gadgets, from a Picosaber to a candle that can be blown out. Creators are encouraged to showcase their creations in the path gallery to give other young makers inspiration. 

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A storytelling approach for engaging girls in the Computing classroom: Pilot study results

We’ve been running the Gender Balance in Computing programme of research since 2019, as part of the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) and with various partners. It’s a £2.4 million research programme funded by the Department for Education in England that aims to identify ways to encourage more girls and young women to engage with Computing and choose to study it further. The programme is made up of four separate areas of research, in which we are running a number of interventions.

Teenage students and a teacher do coding during a computer science lesson.

The first independent evaluation report from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) on our series of interventions has now been published. It relates to an intervention within the research area ‘Teaching Approach’, evaluating our pilot study of teaching computing to Key Stage 1 children using a storytelling approach. The evaluators from BIT found that this pilot study produced evidence of promise for the storytelling approach. They recommend conducting a full-size trial to test how effective this approach is for engaging female pupils with Computing.

Teaching computing through storytelling

Like many Computing curricula around the world, the English National Curriculum emphasises the importance of teaching Computing through a range of content so that pupils can express themselves and develop their ideas using digital tools. Our ‘Teaching Approach’ project builds on research grounded in sociocultural learning theories that suggest teaching approaches that encourage collaboration and use a variety of contexts can make Computing a more inclusive subject for all learners. Within this project, we are running three different interventions, each with learners of different ages.

In a computing classroom, a girl looks at a computer screen.

Evidence indicates that gender stereotypes around Computing develop early (1). Therefore we designed a trial — the first of its kind in England — to explore a storytelling approach for teaching Computing with younger children (6- to 7-year-olds). A small body of research suggests that using storytelling as a learning context for Computing can be engaging for both boys and girls. Research results indicate that:

  • Teaching computing through storytelling and story-writing is effective for motivating 11- to 14-year-old girls to learn programming (2)
  • Children who write computer programs to tell stories see Computing as a subject that is equally as easy or difficult for both boys and girls (3)
  • In a non-formal learning space, primary-aged girls are more likely to choose a storybook beginner electronics activity rather than open-ended beginner electronics free play (4)

The pilot study and the evaluation methods

As combining evidence from research with older students and in non-formal education is experimental, we designed this storytelling trial as a small pilot study. Our aim was to generate early evidence as to how feasible a teaching approach that uses storytelling might be in the primary Computing classroom.

We recruited 53 schools to take part in the pilot study, which ran from April to July 2021. Many schools were still facing challenges due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and we are very grateful to the teachers and learners who have taken part for their contribution to this important research.

In a computing classroom, a girl looks at a computer screen.

To conduct the study, we created a free online training course, and a scheme of work, for schools to teach Computing concepts to 6- and 7-year olds using a storytelling approach. Over a sequence of the 12 lessons in the scheme of work, pupils used the ScratchJr programming environment to animate their own digital stories and learn about Computing concepts, such as sequence and repetition, linked to elements of stories, such as structure, rhyme, and speech. 

To enable the independent evaluation of the effectiveness of the storytelling approach by BIT, schools were allocated either to an intervention group, which used the training course and the storytelling scheme of work, or to a control group, which taught Computing in their usual way and was not made aware that the approach being trialled involved storytelling. For their evaluation, BIT gathered data from both groups to compare them:

  • They conducted surveys measuring learners’ attitudes toward computing and their intentions to study it in the future
  • They carried out observations of lessons, interviews with teachers, and discussions with learners
  • They ran a survey to gather feedback about the trial from teachers

The gathered data was assessed against five categories: evidence of promise, fidelity, acceptability, feasibility, and readiness for trial.

Main findings of the evaluation team

After analysing the data collected from observations, interviews, learner discussions, pupil surveys, and teacher surveys, the key finding of the independent evaluators was that the storytelling teaching approach had evidence of promise, and that it is worthwhile scaling up our intervention for a larger trial with more schools.

The evaluators’ teacher interviews confirmed the early development of gender stereotypes in the classroom. This highlights the importance of introducing Computing to young learners in a way that engages both boys and girls. 

“I’ve really noticed how there’s already differences in views of what’s a boy, what’s a girl, the boys are getting in front of me, like, ‘I want a boy car, I don’t want a girl car’. Then we’ve got the other side where we’ve got fairy tales and princesses and, ‘Oh, I’m a bunny. Do you want to play with me?’”

Teacher (evaluation report, p. 22)

Teachers told the evaluators that pupils enjoyed personalising their stories in ScratchJr, and that they themselves felt positive about the use of storytelling to teach computing. 

“I think [the storytelling aspect] gives them something real to work through, so it’s not… abstract… I think through the storytelling, they’re able to make it as funny or whatever they want, and it’s also their own interest. [Female student], she dotes on animals, so she’s always having giraffes and all of that, so it’s something that they can make their own connections too… Yes, I did really like the storytelling.”

Teacher (evaluation report, p. 26)

Teacher feedback provided some evidence that the storytelling lessons had equally increased both male and female pupils’ interest, confidence, and skills.

Young learners at computers in a classroom.

The independent evaluation team advised caution when interpreting the quantitative data from the pupil surveys, due to the small sample size in this pilot study and the high attrition rates caused by coronavirus-related disruptions. We ourselves would like to add that the study raises questions about the reliability of quantitative survey data collected from very young children using Likert scales, BIT’s chosen survey format for this evaluation. Although the evaluators have made some positive steps in creating a new survey suitable for young children, this research instrument may need further testing; the survey results would need to be interpreted in this light, and more research in this area would be recommended.

You can read the full evaluation report on the NCCE website.

Future directions

This intervention was based on one of the teaching approaches for which there was only early evidence of effectiveness, so it is a good outcome to have a larger trial recommended based on our pilot study. It’s often said that research ends up recommending more research, but in this case our small pilot project really does give robust evidence that we should trial the storytelling approach with more schools.

In a computing classroom, a girl looks at a computer screen.

The independent evaluators collected feedback from both teachers and pupils that confirms the storytelling intervention we designed is feasible in the classroom. The feedback also indicates where we can make small adjustments that will refine and develop the training and scheme of work for a larger-scale study (evaluation report, p. 35), and we will consider this feedback carefully. While some teachers suggested that the training be shortened, less experienced teachers highlighted the need to ensure the training introduces teachers to all of the content covered in the lessons. This feedback helps us to better understand how Computing is taught in primary schools, and how this is influenced by the wide variety of experience and subject knowledge that teachers have. Interestingly, in the control group, some of the teachers reported that they also introduced coding to their learners by having them create stories. We would like to conduct further research into how schools introduce young learners to programming, and we’ll be continuing to reflect on how best to offer flexible content for teacher training related to our research studies.

We’re now looking at how to continue to investigate the effectiveness of the storytelling approach through a larger trial, alongside other projects in which we’re exploring female engagement in computing education through our recently established Raspberry Pi Computing Education Research Centre.

More evaluations are on the way for our other studies in the Gender Balance in Computing programme, including:

  • Two other trials of teaching approaches
  • Interventions in non-formal education contexts
  • Trials of approaches to building a sense of belonging in Computing
  • Research into the impact of timetabling and options evenings

If you would like to stay up-to-date with the research programme, you can sign up to the Gender Balance in Computing newsletter. We will also post our reflections on the projects on this blog when the evaluations are completed.


1 Mulvey, K. L. and Irvin, M. J. (2018). Judgments and reasoning about exclusion from counter-stereotypic STEM career choices in early childhood. Early Child. Res. Q. 44, 220–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.03.016

2 Kelleher, C., Pausch, R. and Kiesler, S. (2007). Storytelling alice motivates middle school girls to learn computer programming. In CHI ’07: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1455–1464. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/1240624.1240844

3 Zaidi, R., Freihofer, I. and Childress Townsend, G. (2017). Using Scratch and Female Role Models while Storytelling Improves Fifth-Grade Students’ Attitudes toward Computing. In SIGCSE ’17: Proceedings of the 2017 ACM SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 791–792. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3017680.3022451

4 McLean, M., & Harlow, D. (2017). Designing inclusive STEM activities: A comparison of playful interactive experiences across gender. In IDC ’17: Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children, 567–574. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.1145/3078072.3084326

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299 experiments from young people run on the ISS in Astro Pi Mission Space Lab 2021/22

We and our partners at ESA Education are excited to announce that 299 teams have achieved flight status in Mission Space Lab of the 2021/22 European Astro Pi Challenge. This means that these young people’s programs are the first ever to run on the two upgraded Astro Pi units on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Two Astro Pi units on board the International Space Station.

Mission Space Lab gives teams of young people up to age 19 the opportunity to design and conduct their own scientific experiments that run on board the ISS. It’s an eight-month long activity that follows the European school year. The exciting hardware upgrades inspired a record number of young people to send us their Mission Space Lab experiment ideas.

Logo of Mission Space Lab, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

Teams who want to take on Mission Space Lab choose between two themes for their experiments, investigating either ‘Life in space’ or ‘Life on Earth’. From this year onwards, thanks to the new Astro Pi hardware, teams can also choose to use new sensors and a Coral machine learning accelerator during their experiment time.

Investigating life in space

Using the Astro Pi units’ sensors, teams can investigate life inside the Columbus module of the ISS. This year, 71 ‘Life in space’ experiments are running on the Astro Pi units. The 71 teams are investigating a wide range of topics: for example, how the Earth’s magnetic field is experienced on the ISS in space, how the environmental conditions that the astronauts experience compare with those on Earth beneath the ISS on its orbit, or whether the conditions in the ISS might be suitable for other lifeforms, such as plants or bacteria.

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.

For ‘Life in space’ experiments, teams can collect data about factors such as the colour and intensity of cabin light (using the new colour and luminosity sensor included in the upgraded hardware), astronaut movement in the cabin (using the new PIR sensor), and temperature and humidity (using the Sense HAT add-on board’s standard sensors).

Investigating life on Earth

Using the camera on an Astro Pi unit when it’s positioned to view Earth from a window of the ISS, teams can investigate features on the Earth’s surface. This year, for the first time, teams had the option to use visible-light instead of infrared (IR) photography, thanks to the new Astro Pi cameras.

An Astro Pi unit at a window on board the International Space Station.

228 teams’ ‘Life on Earth’ experiments are running this year. Some teams are using the Astro Pis’ sensors to determine the precise location of the ISS when images are captured, to identify whether the ISS is flying over land or sea, or which country it is passing over. Other teams are using IR photography to examine plant health and the effects of deforestation in different regions. Some teams are using visible-light photography to analyse clouds, calculate the velocity of the ISS, and classify biomes (e.g. desert, forest, grassland, wetland) it is passing over. The new hardware available from this year onward has helped to encourage 144 of the teams to use machine learning techniques in their experiments.

Testing, testing, testing

We received 88% more idea submissions for Mission Space Lab this year compared to last year: during Phase 1, 799 teams sent us their experiment ideas. We invited 502 of the teams to proceed to Phase 2 based on the quality of their ideas. 386 teams wrote their code and submitted computer programs for their experiments during Phase 2 this year. Achieving flight status, and thus progressing to Phase 3 of Mission Space Lab, is really a huge accomplishment for the 299 successful teams.

Three replica Astro Pi units on a wooden shelf.
Three replica Astro Pi units run tests on the Mission Space Lab programs submitted by young people.

For us, Phase 2 involved putting every team’s program through a number of tests to make sure that it follows experiment rules, doesn’t compromise the safety and security of the ISS, and will run without errors on the Astro Pi units. Testing means that April is a very busy time for us in the Astro Pi team every year. We run these tests on a number of exact replicas of the new Astro Pis, including a final test to run every experiment that has passed every test for the full 3 hours allotted to each team. The 299 experiments with flight status will run on board the ISS for over 5 weeks in total during Phase 3, and once they have started running, we can’t rely on astronaut intervention to resolve issues. So we have to make sure that all of the programs will run without any problems.

Part of the South Island (Te Waipounamu) of New Zealand (Aotearoa), photographed from the International Space Station using an Astro Pi unit.
The South Island (Te Waipounamu) of New Zealand (Aotearoa), photographed from the International Space Station using an Astro Pi unit. Click to enlarge.

Thanks to the team at ESA, we are delighted that 67 more Mission Space Lab experiments are running on the ISS this year compared to last year. In fact, teams’ experiments using the Astro Pi units are underway right now!

The 299 teams awarded flight status this year represent 23 countries and 1205 young people, with 32% female participants and an average age of 15. Spain has the most teams with experiments progressing to Phase 3 (38), closely followed by the UK (34), Italy (27), Romania (23), and Greece (22).

Four photographs of regions of the Earth taken on the International Space Station using an Astro Pi unit.
Four photographs of the Earth taken on the International Space Station using an Astro Pi unit. Click to enlarge.

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to run every Mission Space Lab experiment submitted, as there is only limited time for the Astro Pis to be positioned in the ISS window. We wish we could run every experiment that is submitted, but unfortunately time on the ISS, especially on the nadir window, is limited. Eliminating programs was very difficult because of the high quality of this year’s submissions. Many unsuccessful teams’ programs were eliminated based on very small issues. 87 teams submitted programs this year which did not pass testing and so could not be awarded flight status.

The teams whose experiments are not progressing to Phase 3 should still be very proud to have designed experiments that passed Phase 1, and to have made a Phase 2 submission. We recognise how much work all Mission Space Lab teams have done, and we hope to see you again in next year’s Astro Pi Challenge.

What’s next?

Once the programs for all the experiments have run, we will send the teams the data collected by their experiments for Phase 4. In this final phase of Mission Space Lab, teams analyse their data and write a short report to describe their findings. Based on these reports, the ESA Education and Raspberry Pi Foundation teams will determine the winner of this year’s Mission Space Lab. The winning and highly commended teams will receive special prizes.

Congratulations to all Mission Space Lab teams who’ve achieved flight status! We are really looking forward to reading your reports.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

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A cybersecurity club for girls | Hello World #18

In this article adapted from Hello World issue 18, teacher Babak Ebrahim explains how his school uses a cybersecurity club to increase interest in Computing among girls. Babak is a Computer Science and Mathematics teacher at Bishop Challoner Catholic College Secondary in Birmingham, UK. He is a CAS Community Leader, and works as a CS Champion for the National Centre for Computing Education in England.

Cybersecurity for girls

It is impossible to walk into an upper-secondary computer science lesson and not notice the number of boys compared to girls. This is a common issue across the world; it is clear from reading community forums and news headlines that there is a big gap in female representation in computing. To combat this problem in my school, I started organising trips to local universities and arranging assembly talks for my Year 9 students (aged 13–14). Although this was helpful, it didn’t have as much impact as I expected on improving female representation.

Girls do a cybersecurity activity at a school club.
Girls engage in a cryptography activity at the club.

This led me to alter our approach and target younger female students with an extracurricular club. As part of our lower-secondary curriculum, all pupils study encryption and cryptography, and we were keen to extend this interest beyond lesson time. I discovered the CyberFirst Girls Competition, aimed at Year 8 girls in England (aged 12–13) with the goal of influencing girls when choosing their GCSE subjects (qualifications pupils take aged 14–16). Each school can enter as many teams as they like, with a maximum of four girls in each team. I advertised the event by showing a video of the previous year’s attendees and the winning team. To our delight, 19 girls, in five teams, entered the competition.

Club activities at school

To make sure that this wasn’t a one-off event, we started an after-school cybersecurity club for girls. All Computing teachers encouraged their female students to attend. We had a number of female teachers who were teaching Maths and Computing as their second subjects, and I found it more effective when these teachers encouraged the girls to join. They would also help with running the club. We found it to be most popular with Year 7 students (aged 11–12), with 15 girls regularly attending. We often do cryptography tasks in the club, including activities from established competitions. For example, I recently challenged the club to complete tasks from the most recent Alan Turing Cryptography Competition. A huge benefit of completing these tasks in the club, rather than in the classroom, was that students could work more informally and were not under pressure to succeed. I found this year’s tasks quite challenging for younger students, and I was worried that this could put them off returning to the club. To avoid this, I first taught the students the skills that they would need for one of the challenges, followed by small tasks that I made myself over two or three sessions.

Three teenage girls at a laptop

For example, one task required students to use the Playfair cipher to break a long piece of code. In order to prepare students for decoding this text, I showed them how the cipher works, then created empty grids (5 x 5 tables) and modelled the technique with simple examples. The girls then worked in teams of two to encrypt a short quote. I gave each group a different quotation, and they weren’t allowed to let other groups know what it was. Once they applied the cipher, they handed the encrypted message to another group, whose job was to decrypt it. At this stage, some would identify that the other group had made mistakes using the techniques, and they would go through the text together to identify them. Once students were confident and competent in using this cipher, I presented them with the competition task, and they then applied the same process. Of course, some students would still make mistakes, but they would realise this and be able to work through them, rather than being overwhelmed by them. Another worthwhile activity in the club has been for older pupils, who are in their second year of attending, to mentor and support girls in the years below them, especially in preparation for participating in competitions.

Trips afield

Other club activities have included a trip to Bletchley Park. As a part of the package, students took part in a codebreaking workshop in which they used the Enigma machine to crack encrypted messages. This inspirational trip was a great experience for the girls, as they discovered the pivotal roles women had in breaking codes during the Second World War. If you’re not based in the UK, Bletchley Park also runs a virtual tour and workshops. You could also organise a day trip to a local university where students could attend different workshops run by female lecturers or university students; this could involve a mixture of maths, science, and computer science activities.

Girls do a cybersecurity activity at a school club.
Girls engage in a cryptography activity at the club.

We are thrilled to learn that one of our teams won this year’s CyberFirst Girls Competition! More importantly, the knowledge gained by all the students who attend the club is most heartening, along with the enthusiasm that is clearly evident each week, and the fun that is had. Whether this will have any impact on the number of girls who take GCSE Computer Science remains to be seen, but it certainly gives the girls the opportunity to discover their potential, learn the importance of cybersecurity, and consider pursuing a career in a male-dominated profession. There are many factors that influence a child’s mind as to what they would like to study or do, and every little extra effort that we put into their learning journey will shape who they will become in the future.

What next?

Find out more about teaching cybersecurity

Find out more about the factors influencing girls’ and young women’ engagement in Computing

  • We are currently completing a four-year programme of research about gender balance in computing. Find out more about this research programme.
  • At our research seminar series, we welcomed Peter Kemp and Billy Wong last year, who shared results from their study of the demographics of students who choose GCSE Computer Science in England. Watch the seminar recording.
  • Katharine Childs from our team had summarised the state of research about gender balance in computing. Watch her seminar, or read her report.
  • Last year, we hosted a panel session to learn from various perspectives on gender balance in computing. Watch the panel recording.

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AI literacy research: Children and families working together around smart devices

Between September 2021 and March 2022, we’ve been partnering with The Alan Turing Institute to host a series of free research seminars about how to young people about AI and data science.

In the final seminar of the series, we were excited to hear from Stefania Druga from the University of Washington, who presented on the topic of AI literacy for families. Stefania’s talk highlighted the importance of families in supporting children to develop AI literacy. Her talk was a perfect conclusion to the series and very well-received by our audience.

Stefania Druga.
Stefania Druga, University of Washington

Stefania is a third-year PhD student who has been working on AI literacy in families, and since 2017 she has conducted a series of studies that she presented in her seminar talk. She presented some new work to us that was to be formally shared at the HCI conference in April, and we were very pleased to have a sneak preview of these results. It was a fascinating talk about the ways in which the interactions between parents and children using AI-based devices in the home, and the discussions they have while learning together, can facilitate an appreciation of the affordances of AI systems. You’ll find my summary as well as the seminar recording below.

“AI literacy practices and skills led some families to consider making meaningful use of AI devices they already have in their homes and redesign their interactions with them. These findings suggest that family has the potential to act as a third space for AI learning.”

– Stefania Druga

AI literacy: Growing up with AI systems, growing used to them

Back in 2017, interest in Alexa and other so-called ‘smart’, AI-based devices was just developing in the public, and such devices would have been very novel to most people. That year, Stefania and colleagues conducted a first pilot study of children’s and their parents’ interactions with ‘smart’ devices, including robots, talking dolls, and the sort of voice assistants we are used to now.

A slide from Stefania Druga's AI literacy seminar. Content is described in the blog text.
A slide from Stefania’s AI literacy seminar. Click to enlarge.

Working directly with families, the researchers explored the level of understanding that children had about ‘smart’ devices, and were surprised by the level of insight very young children had into the potential of this type of technology.

In this AI literacy pilot study, Stefania and her colleagues found that:

  • Children perceived AI-based agents (i.e. ‘smart’ devices) as friendly and truthful
  • They treated different devices (e.g. two different Alexas) as completely independent
  • How ‘smart’ they found the device was dependent on age, with older children more likely to describe devices as ‘smart’

AI literacy: Influence of parents’ perceptions, influence of talking dolls

Stefania’s next study, undertaken in 2018, showed that parents’ perceptions of the implications and potential of ‘smart’ devices shaped what their children thought. Even when parents and children were interviewed separately, if the parent thought that, for example, robots were smarter than humans, then the child did too.

A slide from Stefania Druga's AI literacy seminar.
A slide from Stefania’s AI literacy seminar. Click to enlarge.

Another part of this study showed that talking dolls could influence children’s moral decisions (e.g. “Should I give a child a pillow?”). In some cases, these ‘smart’ toys would influence the child more than another human. Some ‘smart’ dolls have been banned in some European countries because of security concerns. In the light of these concerns, Stefania pointed out how important it is to help children develop a critical understanding of the potential of AI-based technology, and what its fallibility and the limits of its guidance are.

A slide from Stefania Druga's AI literacy seminar.
A slide from Stefania’s AI literacy seminar. Click to enlarge.

AI literacy: Programming ‘smart’ devices, algorithmic bias

Another study Stefania discussed involved children who programmed ‘smart’ devices. She used the children’s drawings to find out about their mental models of how the technology worked.

She found that when children had the opportunity to train machine learning models or ‘smart’ devices, they became more sceptical about the appropriate use of these technologies and asked better questions about when and for what they should be used. Another finding was that children and adults had different ideas about algorithmic bias, particularly relating to the meaning of fairness.

A parent and child work together at a Raspberry Pi computer.

AI literacy: Kinaesthetic activities, sharing discussions

The final study Stefania talked about was conducted with families online during the pandemic, when children were learning at home. 15 families, with in total 18 children (ages 5 to 11) and 16 parents, participated in five weekly sessions. A number of learning activities to demonstrate features of AI made up each of the sessions. These are all available at aiplayground.me.

A slide from Stefania Druga's AI literacy seminar, describing two research questions about how children and parents learn about AI together, and about how to design learning supports for family AI literacies.
A slide from Stefania’s AI literacy seminar. Click to enlarge.

The fact that children and parents, or other family members, worked through the activities together seemed to generate fruitful discussions about the usefulness of AI-based technology. Many families were concerned about privacy and what was happening to their personal data when they were using ‘smart’ devices, and also expressed frustration with voice assistants that couldn’t always understand the way they spoke.

A slide from Stefania Druga's AI literacy seminar. Content described in the blog text.
A slide from Stefania’s AI literacy seminar. Click to enlarge.

In one of the sessions, with a focus on machine learning, families were introduced to a kinaesthetic activity involving moving around their home to train a model. Through this activity, parents and children had more insight into the constraints facing machine learning. They used props in the home to experiment and find out ways of training the model better. In another session, families were encouraged to design their own devices on paper, and Stefania showed some examples of designs children had drawn.

A slide from Stefania Druga's AI literacy seminar. Content described in the blog text.
A slide from Stefania’s AI literacy seminar. Click to enlarge.

This study identified a number of different roles that parents or other adults played in supporting children’s learning about AI, and found that embodied and tangible activities worked well for encouraging joint work between children and their families.

Find out more

You can catch up with Stefania’s seminar below in the video, and download her presentation slides.

More about Stefania’s work can be learned in her paper on children’s training of ML models and also in her latest paper about the five weekly AI literacy sessions with families.

Recordings and slides of all our previous seminars on AI education are available online for you, and you can see the list of AI education resources we’ve put together based on recommendations from seminar speakers and participants.

Join our next free research seminar

We are delighted to start a new seminar series on cross-disciplinary computing, with seminars in May, June, July, and September to look forward to. It’s not long now before we begin: Mark Guzdial will speak to us about task-specific programming languages (TSP) in history and mathematics classes on 3 May, 17.00 to 18.30pm local UK time. I can’t wait!

Sign up to receive the Zoom details for the seminar with Mark:

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Python coding for kids: Moving beyond the basics

We are excited to announce our second new Python learning path, ‘More Python’, which shows young coders how to add real data to their programs while creating projects from a chart of Olympic medals to an interactive world map. The six guided Python projects in this free learning path are designed to enable young people to independently create their own Python projects about the topics that matter to them.

A girl points excitedly at a project on the Raspberry Pi Foundation's projects site.
Two kids are at a laptop with one of our coding projects.

In this post, we’ll show you how kids use the projects in the ‘More Python’ path, what they can make by following the path, and how the path structure helps them become confident and independent digital makers.

Python coding for kids: Our learning paths

Our ‘Introduction to Python’ learning path is the perfect place to start learning how to use Python, a text-based programming language. When we launched the Intro path in February, we explained why Python is such a popular, useful, and accessible programming language for young people.

Because Python has so much to offer, we have created a second Python path for young people who have learned the basics in the first path. In this new set of six projects, learners will discover new concepts and see how to add different types of real data to their programs.

Illustration of different graph types
By following the ‘More Python’ path, young people learn the skills to independently create a data visualisation for a topic they are passionate about in the final project.

Key questions answered

Who is this path for?

We have written the projects in this path with young people around the age of 10 to 13 in mind. To code in a text-based language, a young person needs to be familiar with using a keyboard, due to the typing involved. Learners should have already completed the ‘Introduction to Python’ project path, as they will build on the learning from that path.

Three young tech creators show off their tech project at Coolest Projects.

How do young people learn with the projects? 

Young people need access to a web browser to complete our project paths. Each project contains step-by-step instructions for learners to follow, and tick boxes to mark when they complete each step. On top of that, the projects have steps for learners to:

  • Reflect on what they have covered in the project
  • Share their projects with others
  • See suggestions to upgrade their projects

Young people also have the option to sign up for an account with us so they can save their progress at any time and collect badges.

A young person codes at a Raspberry Pi computer.

While learners follow the project instructions in this project path, they write their code into Trinket, a free web-based coding platform accessible in a browser. Each project contains a link to a starter Trinket, which includes everything to get started writing Python code — no need to install any additional software.

Screenshot of Python code in the online IDE Trinket.
This is what Python code on Trinket looks like.

If they prefer, however, young people also have the option of instead writing their code in a desktop-based programming environment, such as Thonny, as they work through the projects.

What will young people learn?  

To use data in their Python programs, the project instructions show learners how to:

  • Create and use lists
  • Create and use dictionaries
  • Read data from a data file

The projects support learners as they explore new concepts of digital visual media and: 

  • Create charts using the Python library Pygal
  • Plot pins on a map
  • Create randomised artwork

In each project, learners reflect and answer questions about their work, which is important for connecting the project’s content to their pre-existing knowledge.

In a computing classroom, a girl laughs at what she sees on the screen.

As they work through the projects, learners see different ways to present data and then decide how they want to present their data in the final project in the path. You’ll find out what the projects are on the path page, or at the bottom of this blog post.

The project path helps learners become independent coders and digital makers, as each project contains slightly less support than the one before. You can read about how our project paths are designed to increase young people’s independence, and explore our other free learning paths for young coders

How long will the path take to complete?

We’ve designed the path to be completed in around six one-hour sessions, with one hour per project, at home, in school, or at a coding club. The project instructions encourage learners to add code to upgrade their projects and go further if they wish. This means that young people might want to spend a little more time getting their projects exactly as they imagine them.

In a classroom, a teacher and a student look at a computer screen while the student types on the keyboard.

What can young people do next?

Use Unity to create a 3D world

Unity is a free development environment for creating 3D virtual environments, including games, visual novels, and animations, all with the text-based programming language C#. Our ‘Introduction to Unity’ project path for keen coders shows how to make 3D worlds and games with collectibles, timers, and non-player characters.

Take part in Coolest Projects Global

At the end of the ‘More Python’ path, learners are encouraged to register a project they’ve made using their new coding skills for Coolest Projects Global, our free and world-leading online technology showcase for young tech creators. The project they register will become part of the online gallery, where members of the Coolest Projects community can celebrate each other’s creations.

A young coder shows off her tech project for Coolest Projects to two other young tech creators.

We welcome projects from all young people, whether they are beginners or experienced coders and digital makers. Coolest Projects Global is a unique opportunity for young people to share their ingenuity with the world and with other young people who love coding and creating with digital technology.

Details about the projects in ‘More Python’

The ‘More Python’ path is structured according to our Digital Making Framework, with three Explore project, two Design projects, and a final Invent project.

Explore project 1: Charting champions

Illustration of a fast-moving, smiling robot wearing a champion's rosette.

In this Explore project, learners discover the power of lists in Python by creating an interactive chart of Olympic medals. They learn how to read data from a text file and then present that data as a bar chart.

Explore project 2: Solar system

Illustration of our solar system.

In this Explore project, learners create a simulation of the solar system. They revisit the drawing and animation skills that they learned in the ‘Introduction to Python’ project path to produce animated planets orbiting the sun. The animation is based on real data taken from a data file to simulate the speed that the planets move at as they orbit. The simulation is also interactive, using dictionaries to display data about the planets that have been selected.

Explore project 3: Codebreaker

Illustration of a person thinking about codebreaking.

The final Explore project gets learners to build on their knowledge of lists and dictionaries by creating a program that encodes and decodes a message using an Atbash cipher. The Atbash cipher was originally developed in the Hebrew language. It takes the alphabet and matches it to its reverse order to create a secret message. They also create a script that checks how many times certain letters have been used in an encoded message, so that they can discover patterns.

Design project 1: Encoded art

Illustration of a robot painting a portrait of another robot.

The first Design project allows learners to create fun pieces of artwork by encoding the letters of their name into images, patterns, or drawings. Learners can choose the images that will be produced for each letter, and whether these appear at random or in a geometric pattern.

Learners are encouraged to share their encoded artwork in the community library, where there are lots of fun projects to discover already. In this project, learners apply all of the coding skills and knowledge covered in the Explore projects, including working with dictionaries and lists.

Design project 2: Mapping data

Illustration of a map and a hand of someone marking it with a large pin.

In the next Design project, learners access data from a data file and use it to create location pins on a world map. They have six datasets to choose from, so they can use one that interests them. They can also choose from a variety of maps and design their own pin to truly personalise their projects.

Invent project: Persuasive data presentation

Illustration of different graph types

This project is designed to use all of the skills and knowledge covered in this path, and most of the skills from the ‘Introduction to Python’ path. Learners can choose from eight datasets to create data visualisations. They are also given instructions on how to access and prepare other datasets if they want to visualise data about a different topic.

Once learners have chosen their dataset, they can decide how they want it to be displayed. This could be a chart, a map with pins, or a unique data visualisation. There are lots of example projects to provide inspiration for learners. One of our favourites is the ISS Expedition project, which places flags on the ISS depending on the expedition number you enter.

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Three new reasons to register for Coolest Projects Global 2022

Over the last ten years, thousands of young people from all over the world have shared their digital creations at a Coolest Projects event. This year, there are a few brand-new and exciting reasons why young people will want to get involved in Coolest Projects Global online tech showcase and share their tech creations in the online gallery, for the worldwide Coolest Projects community to discover them.

Two teenage girls participating in Coolest Projects shows off their tech project.

Not only will each Coolest Projects Global participant get unique feedback on their project, they’ll also receive a cool piece of limited-edition Coolest Projects swag. And young tech creators have a shot at winning a coveted Coolest Projects medal if their creation is selected as a judges’ favourite. We’ve added all of these new enhancements thanks to the thoughtful feedback we’ve received from participants in previous showcases.

White text on blue background saying New in 2022.

1. Personalised project feedback

Young people who’ve showcased at an in-person Coolest Projects event know how great it is to see how other people react to their project. This year, creators participating in our online showcase will automatically get reactions and feedback from our Coolest Projects staff and partners who are reviewing projects.

A Coolest Projects participant

That means each creator will find out what’s great about their project and how they might be able to improve it. All of this feedback will be shown in the creator’s online account on coolestprojects.org after the celebratory livestream in June.

2. Limited-edition Coolest Projects art

All young creators will also get limited-edition swag: a Coolest Projects poster designed by New York City-based artist Joey Rex. Creators can proudly display this memento of their participation in Coolest Projects Global 2022 on their bedroom wall, and as a digital phone or computer screen background.

An illustration of two young tech creators working on digital projects in a room filled with devices, gadgets, and tools.
The limited-edition Coolest Projects poster designed by Joey Rex.

The poster design was inspired by all the young makers who have participated in Coolest Projects over the last 10 years. It evokes themes of collaboration, invention, and creativity. Here’s what Joey, the artist, had to say about the design:

“This project was really exciting for me to work on, since I love geeking out over tech and building custom electronics, and I’m really grateful to the Coolest Projects team for trusting me with this vision. I hope my design can inspire the creators to keep up the great work and continue bringing their awesome ideas to reality!”

Artist Joey Rex

To claim their printed poster and backgrounds for their digital devices, creators will receive a link via email after the celebratory livestream in June.

3. Custom Coolest Projects medals

And behold, your first look at the Coolest Projects medal:

A Coolest Projects medal.

As you may already know, VIP judges select their favourite projects in each project category. Creators of projects that are selected as favourites will receive this custom die-cast medal to commemorate their unique accomplishment. The medal hangs on a full color Coolest Projects ribbon and would be the coolest addition to any wall or trophy shelf.

Three young tech creators show off their tech project at Coolest Projects.

Creators who want to aim for a medal should keep in mind that judges’ favourite projects are selected based on their complexity, presentation, design, and of course their coolness. See the Coolest Projects FAQs for more information.

White text on blue background saying Get involved.

With all these new enhancements to Coolest Projects Global, there is a multitude of reasons for young tech creators to register a project for the online showcase.

To help young people get involved in Coolest Projects, we have planned a few livestreamed codealong events on our YouTube channel:

  • 26 April at 7pm BST, a good time for creators in Europe
  • 27 April at 7pm EDT, a good time for creators in the Americas

During these livestreams, you’ll also learn about the new project topics we’ve introduced for the online gallery this year. We’ll especially explore the ‘environment’ topic, sponsored by our friends at EPAM and Liberty Global.

More details are coming soon, so be sure to sign up for email updates to be the first to hear them.

That’s all of the latest news about Coolest Projects. Until next time… be cool.

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Exploring cross-disciplinary computing education in our new seminar series

We are delighted to launch our next series of free online seminars, this time on the topic of cross-disciplinary computing, running monthly from May to November 2022. As always, our seminars are for all researchers, educators, and anyone else interested in research related to computing education.

An educator helps two learners set up a Raspberry Pi computer.

Crossing disciplinary boundaries

What do we mean by cross-disciplinary computing? Through this upcoming seminar series, we want to embrace the intersections and interactions of computing with all aspects of learning and life, and think about how they can help us teach young people. The researchers we’ve invited as our speakers will help us shed light on cross-disciplinary areas of computing through the breadth of their presentations.

In a computing classroom, a girl looks at a computer screen.

At the Raspberry Pi Foundation our mission is to make computing accessible to all children and young people everywhere, and because computing and technology appear in all aspects of our and young people’s lives, in this series of seminars we will consider what computing education looks like in a multiplicity of environments.

Mark Guzdial on computing in history and mathematics

We start the new series on 3 May, and are beyond delighted to be kicking off with a talk from Mark Guzdial (University of Michigan). Mark has worked in computer science education for decades and won many awards for his research, including the prestigious ACM SIGCSE Outstanding Contribution to Computing Education award in 2019. Mark has written hundreds of papers about computer science education, and he authors an extremely popular computing education research blog that keeps us all up to date with what is going on in the field.

Mark Guzdial.

Recently, he has been researching the ways in which programming education can be integrated into other subjects, so he is a perfect speaker to start us thinking about our theme of cross-disciplinary computing. His talk will focus on how we can add a teaspoon of computing to history and mathematics classes.

Pratim Sengupta on countering technocentrism

On 7 June, our speaker will be Pratim Sengupta (University of Calgary), who I feel will really challenge us to think about programming and computing education in a new way. He has conducted studies in science classrooms and non-formal learning environments which focus on providing open and engaging experiences for the public to explore code, for example through the Voice your Celebration installation. Recently, he has co-authored a book called Voicing Code in STEM: A Dialogical Imagination (MIT Press, availabe open access).

Pratim Sengupta.

In Pratim’s talk, he will share his thoughts about the ways that more of us can become involved with code through opening up its richness and depth to a wider public audience, and he will introduce us to his ideas about countering technocentrism, a key focus of his new book. I’m so looking forward to being challenged by this talk.

Yasmin Kafai on curriculum design with e-textiles

On 12 July, we will hear from Yasmin Kafai (University of Pennsylvania), who is another legend in computing education in my eyes. Yasmin started her long career in computing education with Seymour Papert, internationally known for his work on Logo and on constructionism as a theoretical lens for understanding the way we learn computing. Yasmin was part of the team that created Scratch, and for many years now has been working on projects revolving around digital making, electronic textiles, and computational participation.

Yasmin Kafai.

In Yasmin’s talk she will present, alongside a panel of teachers she’s been collaborating with, some of their work to develop a high school curriculum that uses electronic textiles to introduce students to computer science. This promises to be a really engaging and interactive seminar.

Genevieve Smith-Nunes on exploring data ethics

In August we will take a holiday, to return on 6 September to hear from the inspirational Genevieve Smith-Nunes (University of Cambridge), whose research is focused on dance and computing, in particular data-driven dance. Her work helps us to focus on the possibilities of creative computing, but also to think about the ethics of applications that involve vast amounts of data.

Genevieve Smith-Nunes.

Genevieve’s talk will prompt us to think about some really important questions: Is there a difference in sense of self (identity) between the human and the virtual? How does sharing your personal biometric data make you feel? How can biometric and immersive development tools be used in the computing classroom to raise awareness of data ethics? Impossible to miss!

Sign up now to attend the seminars

Do enter all these dates in your diary so you don’t miss out on participating — we are very excited about this series. Sign up below, and ahead of every seminar, we will send you the information for joining.

As usual, the seminars will take place online on a Tuesday at 17:00 to 18:30 local UK time. Later on in the series, we will also host a talk by our own researchers and developers at the Raspberry Pi Foundation about our non-formal learning research. Watch this space for details about the October and November seminars, which we are still finalising.

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Making the most of Hello World magazine | Hello World #18

Hello World magazine, our free magazine written by computing educators for computing educators, has been running for 5 years now. In the newest issue, Alan O’Donohoe shares his top tips for educators to make the most out of Hello World.

Issues of Hello World magazine arranged to form a number five.

Alan has over 20 years’ experience teaching and leading technology, ICT, and computing in schools in England. He runs exa.foundation, delivering professional development to engage digital makers, supporting computing teaching, and promoting the appropriate use of technology.

Alan’s top tips

Years before there was a national curriculum for computing, Hello World magazines, or England’s National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), I had ambitious plans to overhaul our school’s ICT curriculum with the introduction of computer science. Since the subject team I led consisted mostly of non-specialist teachers, it was clear I needed to be the one steering the change. To do this successfully, I realised I’d need to look for examples and case studies outside of our school, to explore exactly what strategies, resources and programming languages other teachers were using. However, I drew a blank. I couldn’t find any local schools teaching computer science. It was both daunting and disheartening not knowing anyone else I could refer to for advice and experience.

An educator holds up a copy of Hello World magazine in front of their face.
“Hello World helps me keep up with the current trends in our thriving computing community.” – Matt Moore

Thankfully, ten years later, the situation has significantly improved. Even with increased research and resources, though, there can still be the sense of feeling alone. With scarce prospects to meet other computing teachers, there’s fewer people to be inspired by, to bounce ideas off, to celebrate achievement, or share the challenges of teaching computing with. Some teachers habitually engage with online discussion forums and social media platforms to plug this gap, but these have their own drawbacks. 

It’s great news then that there’s another resource that teachers can turn to. You all know by now that Hello World magazine offers another helping hand for computing teachers searching for richer experiences for their students and opportunities to hone their professional practice. In this Insider’s Guide, I offer practical suggestions for how you can use Hello World to its full potential.  

Put an article into practice  

Teachers have often told me that strategies like PRIMM and pair programming have had a positive impact on their teaching, after first reading about them in Hello World. Over the five years of its publication, there’s likely to have been an article or research piece that particularly struck a chord with you — so why not try putting the learnings from that article into practice?

An educator holds up a copy of Hello World magazine in front of their face.
“Hello World gives me loads of ideas that I’m excited to try out in my own classroom.” – Steve Rich

You may choose to go this route on your own, but you could persuade colleagues to join you. Not only is there safety in numbers, but the shared rewards and motivation that come from teamwork. Start by choosing an article. This could be an approach that made an impression on you, or something related to a particular theme or topic that you and your colleagues have been seeking to address. You could then test out some of the author’s suggestions in the article; if they represent something very different from your usual approach, then why not try them first with a teaching group that is more open to trying new things? For reflection and analysis, consider conducting some pupil voice interviews with your classes to see what their opinions are of the activity, or spend some time reflecting on the activity with your colleagues. Finally, you could make contact with the author to compare your experiences, seek further support, or ask questions. 

Strike up a conversation

Authors generally welcome correspondence from readers, even those that don’t agree with their opinions! While it’s difficult to predict exactly what the outcome may be, it could lead to a productive professional correspondence. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Establish the best way to contact the author. Some have contact details or clues about where to find them in their articles. If not, you might try connecting with them on LinkedIn, or social media. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t respond promptly; I’ve often received replies many months after sending. 
  • Open your message with an introduction to yourself moving onto some positive praise, describing your appreciation for the article and points that resonated deeply with you.
  • If you have already tried some of the author’s suggestions, you could share your experiences and pupil outcomes, where appropriate, with them.
An educator holds up a copy of Hello World magazine in front of their face.
“One of the things I love about Hello World is the huge number of interesting articles that represent a wide range of voices and experiences in computing education.” – Catherine Elliott
  • Try to maintain a constructive tone. Even if you disagree with the piece, the author will be more receptive to a supportive tone than criticism. If the article topic is a ‘work in progress’, the author may welcome your suggestions.
  • Enquire as to whether the author has changed their practice since writing the article or if their thinking has developed.
  • You might take the opportunity to direct questions at the author asking for further examples, clarity or advice.  
  • If the author has given you an idea for an article, project, or research on a similar theme, they’re likely to be interested in hearing more. Describe your proposal in a single sentence summary and see if they’d be interested in reading an early draft or collaborating with you.

Start a reading group

Take inspiration from book clubs, but rather than discuss works of fiction, instead invite members of your professional groups or curriculum teams to discuss content from issues of Hello World. This could become a regular feature of your meetings where attendees can be invited to contribute their own opinions. To achieve this, firstly identify a group that you’re a part of where this is most likely to be received well. This may be with your colleagues, or fellow computing teachers you’ve met at conferences or training days. To begin, you might prescribe one specific single article or broaden it to include a whole issue. It makes sense to select an article likely to be popular with your group, or one that addresses a current or future area of concern.

An educator holds up a copy of Hello World magazine in front of their face.
“I love Hello World! I encourage my teaching students to sign up, and give out copies when I can. I refer to articles in my lectures.” – Fiona Baxter

To familiarise attendees with the content, share a link to the issue for them to read in advance of the meeting. If you’re reviewing a whole issue, suggest pages likely to be most relevant. If you’re reviewing a single article, make it clear whether you are referring to the page numbers as printed or those in the PDF. You could make it easier by removing all other pages from the PDF and sending it as an attachment. Remember that you can download back issues of Hello World as PDFs, which you can then edit or print. 

Encourage your attendees to share the aspects of the article that appealed to them, or areas they could not agree with the author or struggled to see working in their particular setting. Invite any points of issue for further discussion and explanation — somebody in the group might volunteer to strike up a conversation with the author by passing on the feedback from the group. Alternatively, you could invite the author of the piece to join your meeting via video conference to address questions and promote discussion of the themes. This could lead to developing a productive friendship or professional association with the author.  

Propose an article

“I wish!” is a typical response I hear when I suggest to a teacher that they should seriously consider writing an article for Hello World. I often get the responses, “I don’t have enough time”, “Nobody would read anything I write”, or, “I don’t do anything worth writing about”. The most common concern I hear, though, is, “But I’m not a writer!”. So you’re not the only one thinking that! 

“We strongly encourage first-time writers. My job is to edit your work and worry about grammar and punctuation — so don’t worry if this isn’t your strength! Remember that as an educator, you’re writing all the time. Lesson plans, end-of-term reports, assessment feedback…you’re more of a writer than you think! If you’re not sure where to start, you could write a lesson plan, or contribute to our ‘Me and my Classroom’ feature.”

— Gemma Coleman, Editor of Hello World

Help and support is available from the editorial team. I for one have found this to be extremely beneficial, especially as I really don’t rate my own writing skills! Don’t forget, you’re writing about your own practice, something that you’ve done in your career — so you’ll be an expert on you. Each article starts with a proposal, the editor replies with some suggestions, then a draft follows and some more refinements. I ask friends and colleagues to review parts of what I’ve written to help me and I even ask non-teaching members of my family for their opinions. 

Writing an article for Hello World can really help boost your own professional development and career prospects. Writing about your own practice requires humility, analytical thinking and self reflection. To ensure you have time to write an article, make it fit in with something of interest to you. This could be an objective from your own performance management or appraisal. This reduces the need for additional work and adds a level of credibility.

An educator reads a copy of Hello World magazine on public transport.
“Professionally, writing for Hello World provides recognition that you know what you’re talking about and that you share your knowledge in a number of different ways.” – Neil Rickus

If that isn’t enough to persuade you, for contributors based outside of the UK (who usually aren’t eligible for free print copies), Hello World will send you a complimentary print copy of the magazine that you feature in to say thank you. Picture the next Hello World issue arriving featuring an article written by you. How does this make you feel? Be honest — your heart flutters as you tear off the wrapper to go straight to your article. You’ll be impressed to see how much smarter it looks in print than the draft you did in Microsoft Word. You’ll then want to show others, because you’ll be proud of your work. It generates a tremendous sense of pride and achievement in seeing your own work published in a professional capacity. 

Hello World offers busy teachers a fantastic, free and accessible resource of shared knowledge, experience and inspiring ideas. When we feel most exhausted and lacking inspiration, we should treasure those mindful moments where we can sit down with a cup of tea and make the most of this wonderful publication created especially for us.

Celebrate 5 years of Hello World with us

We marked Hello World’s fifth anniversary with a recent Twitter Spaces event with Alan and Catherine Elliot as our guests. You can catch up with the event recording on the Hello World podcast. And the newest Hello World issue, with a focus on cybersecurity, is available as a free PDF download — dive it today.

Cover of Hello World issue 18.

How have you been using Hello World in your practice in the past five years? What do you hope to see in the magazine in the next five? Let us know on Twitter by tagging @HelloWorld_Edu.

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Code Club in Wales with translations, teacher training and a country-wide codealong

Since the inception of Code Club in 2012, teachers in Wales have been part of the Code Club community, running extracurricular Code Club sessions for learners in their schools. As of late 2021, there are 84 active clubs in Wales. With our new Code Club Community Coordinator for Wales, Sarah Eve Roberts, on board, we are thrilled to be able to offer more dedicated support to the community in Wales.

A computing classroom filled with learners

Support and engagement for Welsh Code Clubs

Sarah introduced herself to the Welsh education community by running a Code Club training workshop for teachers. Educators from 32 Welsh schools joined her to learn how to start their own Code Club and then tried one of the free coding projects we provide for club sessions for themselves.

A tweet about a Code Club codealong in Wales.

The Welsh Code Club network had a chance to meet Sarah at a country-wide online codealong on 11 March, just in time to kick off British Science Week 2022. In this one-hour codealong event, we took beginner coders through the first project of our new ‘Introduction to Scratch’ pathway, Space Talk. Space Talk is a fantastic project for Code Clubs: it provides beginners with a simple introduction to coding in Scratch, and also gives plenty of opportunity for more experienced learners to get creative and make the project their own.

The codealong was fantastically popular, with 90 teachers and 2900 learners from 59 schools participating. Several of the schools shared their excitement with us on Twitter, posting pictures and videos of their Space Talk projects.

Tamasin Greenough Graham, Head of Code Club, says: “It was wonderful to see so many children and teachers from Wales coding with us. I really loved the creativity they showed in all their projects!”

Welsh translations of Code Club learning materials

Although the codealong took place in English, Space Talk and the whole ‘Introduction to Scratch’ pathway are available in the Welsh language. The pathway includes a total of six projects, bringing the total number of Welsh-language coding projects we offer to 37. It’s really important to us to offer our learning materials in Welsh, especially because we know it helps young people engage with our free coding activities.

A child codes a Spiderman project at a laptop during a Code Club session.

The translation of learning materials is a collaborative effort at the Raspberry Pi Foundation: we work with a team of 1465 volunteer translators, who translate our materials into  33 languages, making them accessible for more children and educators around the world.

Two of these translators, Marcus and Julia Davage, are based in Wales. They help to make our projects accessible to Welsh-speaking learners. Marcus and Julia have been part of the community for 6 years, volunteering at Code Club and running their own club:

“I started volunteering for Code Club in 2016 when my daughter was in a Welsh-medium primary school and her teacher had started a Code Club. This lasted until 2019. Last year I started my own Code Club at the Welsh-medium primary school at which my wife Julia teaches. Since helping out, she has taught Scratch in her own lessons!”

– Marcus Davage, Code Club volunteer & Welsh translation volunteer

Marcus and Julia have translated numerous learning resources and communications for our Welsh community. Marcus describes the experience of translating:

“I noticed that several of the projects hadn’t been completely translated into Welsh, so when my company, BMC Software, promoted a Volunteering Day for all of its staff, I jumped at the opportunity to spend the whole day finishing off many of the missing translations! I must admit, I did laugh at a few terms, like ’emoji’ (which has no official translation), ’emoticon’ (‘gwenoglun’ or ‘smiley face’), and ‘wearable tech’ (‘technoleg gwisgadwy’).”

– Marcus Davage, Code Club volunteer & Welsh translation volunteer

We’re thankful to Marcus and Julia and to all the teachers and volunteers in Wales who bring coding skills to the young people in their schools.

Get involved in Code Club, in Wales or elsewhere

Keen readers may have noticed that this year marks the tenth anniversary of Code Club! We have lots of celebrations planned for the worldwide community of volunteers and learners, in long-running clubs as well as in brand-new ones.

A group of smiling children hold up large cardboard Code Club logos.

So now is an especially great time to get involved by starting a Code Club at your school, or by signing up to volunteer at an up-and-running club. Find out more at codeclub.org.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Code Club in Wales, email us at support@codeclub.org so Sarah can get in touch.

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170 research papers about teaching programming, summarised

Computer programming is now part of the school curriculum in England and many other countries. Although not necessarily the primary focus of the computing curriculum, programming can be the area teachers find most challenging to teach. There is much evidence emerging from research on how to teach programming, particularly from projects with undergraduate learners. That’s why I recently wrote a report summarising over 170 programming pedagogy papers: Teaching programming in schools: A review of approaches and strategies.

In a computing classroom, a smiling girl raises her hand.

I hope this blog post about how I approached writing the report whets your appetite to read it, and encourages you to read more research summaries in general.

My approach to summarising research papers

Summarising findings from more than 170 research papers into 34 pages was not a task for the faint-hearted. I could not have embarked on this task without previous experience of writing similar, smaller reviews; working on a host of research projects; and writing reports about research for many different audiences.

A computing teacher and a learner do physical computing in the primary school classroom.

I love reading about computer science education. It evokes very strong emotions, making me by turns happy, curious, impressed, alarmed, and even cross. When I summarise the papers of other researchers, I am very careful when deciding what to include and what to leave out, in order to do the researchers’ work justice while not overselling it or misleading readers. Sometimes research papers can be hard to fathom, with lots of jargon and statistics. In other papers, the conclusions drawn have many limitations: the project the paper describes hasn’t produced robust enough evidence to give a clear, generalisable message. Academic integrity and not misrepresenting the work of others is paramount. And naturally, there are many more than 170 papers about teaching programming, but I had to stop somewhere. All this makes summarising research a tricky task that one has to undertake with great care.

a teenage boy does coding during a computer science lesson.

Another important aspect of summarising research is how to group papers. A long list saying “this paper said this”, “this paper said that” would not be easy to access and would not draw out overall themes. Often research studies span many topics. What might be a helpful grouping for one reader might not be interesting for another.

For this report, I grouped papers into three sections:

  1. Classroom strategies: Here I included well-researched classroom strategies that teachers can use to teach programming in schools
  2. Contexts and environments for learning programming: Here I outlined research related to opportunities for teaching programming, including different programming languages and the classroom context
  3. Supporting learners: Here I summarised research that helps teachers support learners, particularly learners who have difficulties with programming

Why you as a teacher should read research summaries

Teachers, as very busy professionals, have little time to replan lessons, and programming lessons are challenging to start with. However, the potential long-term benefit may outweigh the short-term cost when it comes to reading research summaries: new insights from firmly grounded research can improve your teaching and enable more of your learners to be successful.

In a computing classroom, a girl laughs at what she sees on the screen.

The process of translating research into practice is an area that I and the research team here are particularly interested in investigating. We are looking forward to working with teachers to explore this.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation regularly shares research summaries in the form of:

You can also check out other computing education podcasts e.g. CSEdPod.org, as well as computing education books (e.g. The Cambridge Handbook of Computing Education Research,  Computer Science Education: Perspectives on Teaching and Learning, and many others), and other researchers’ blogs about computing education (e.g. Amy Ko, article summaries on CSEdresearch.org).

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3D print you own replica Astro Pi flight case

We’ve put together a new how-to guide for 3D printing and assembling your own Astro Pi unit replica, based on the upgraded units we sent to the International Space Station in December.

Astro Pi MK II hardware.
The new, upgraded Astro Pi units.

The Astro Pi case connects young people to the Astro Pi Challenge

It wasn’t long after the first Raspberry Pi computer was launched that people started creating the first cases for it. Over the years, they’ve designed really useful ones, along with some very stylish ones. Without a doubt, the most useful and stylish one has to be the Astro Pi flight case.

Animation of how the components of the Mark 2 Astro Pi hardware unit fit together.
What’s inside the new units.

This case houses the Astro Pi units, the hardware young people use when they take part in the European Astro Pi Challenge. Designed by the amazing Jon Wells for the very first Astro Pi Challenge, which was part of Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the ISS in 2015, the case has become an iconic part of the Astro Pi journey for young people.

Logo of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

As Jon says: “The design of the original flight case, although functional, formed an emotional connection with the young people who took part in the programme and is an engaging and integral part of the experience of the Astro Pi.”

People love to 3D print Astro Pi cases

Although printing an Astro Pi case is absolutely not essential for participating in the European Astro Pi Challenge, many of the teams of young people who participate in Astro Pi Mission Space Lab, and create experiments to run on the Astro Pi units aboard the ISS, do print Astro Pi cases to house the hardware that we send them for testing their experiments.

An aluminium-encased Astro Pi unit next to a 3D-printed Astro Pi unit replica.
An aluminium Astro Pi case, and a 3D printed case.

When we published the first how-to guide for 3D printing an Astro Pi case and making a working replica of the unit, it was immediately popular. We saw an exciting range of cases being produced. Some people (such as me) tried to make theirs look as similar as possible to the original aluminium Astro Pi flight unit, even using metallic spray paint to complete the effect. Others chose to go for a multicolour model, or even used glow-in-the-dark filament.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise that when we announced that we were sending upgraded Astro Pi units to the ISS — with cases again designed by Jon Wells — we received a flurry of requests for the files needed to 3D print these new cases.

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.
The new Astro Pi units are on board the ISS now.

Now that the commissioning of the new Astro Pi units, which arrived on board the International Space Station in December, is complete, we’ve been able to put together an all-new how-to guide to 3D printing your own Mark II Astro Pi case and assembling your own Astro Pi unit replica at home or in the classroom.

The guide also includes step-by-step instructions to completing the internal wiring so you can construct a working Astro Pi unit. We’re provided a custom version of the self-test software that is used on the official Astro Pis, so you can check that everything is operational.

If you’re new to 3D printing, you might like to try one of our BlocksCAD projects and practice printing a simpler design before you move on the the Astro Pi case.

Changes and improvements to the guide

We’ve made some changes to the original CAD designs to make printing the Mark II case parts and assembling a working Astro Pi replica unit as easy as possible. Unlike the STL files for the Mark I case, we’ve kept the upper and lower body components as single parts, rather than splitting each into two thinner halves. 3D printers have continued to improve since we wrote the first how-to guide. Most now have heated beds, which prevent warping, and we’ve successfully printed the Mark II parts on a range of affordable machines.

An Astro Pi case front is being printed on a 3D printer.
Printing an Astro Pi case.

The guide contains lots of hints and tips for getting the best results. As usual with 3D printing, be prepared to make some tweaks for the particular printer that you use.

In addition to the upper and lower case parts, there are also some extra components to print this time: the colour sensor window, the joystick cap, the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera housing, and the legs that protect the lenses and allow the Astro Pi units on the ISS to be safely placed up against the nadir window.

Four 3D-printed Astro Pi case fronts.
You can choose between four variants of the upper case part.

We’ve included files for four variants of the upper case part (see above). In order to keep costs down, the kits that we send to Astro Pi Mission Space Lab teams have a different PIR sensor to the ones of the proper Astro Pi units. So we’ve produced files for upper case parts that allow that sensor to be fitted. If you’re not taking part in the European Astro Pi Challenge, this also offers a cheaper alternative to creating an Astro Pi replica which still includes the motion detection capability:

We’ve also provided versions for the upper case part that have smaller holes for the push buttons. So, if you don’t fancy splashing out on the supremely pressable authentic buttons, you can use other colourful alternatives, which typically have a smaller diameter.

A 3D-printed Astro Pi unit replica with legs attached.
The guide includes files for printing the Astro Pi’s protective legs.

Do share photos of your 3D-printed Astro Pi cases with us by tweeting pictures of them to @astro_pi and @RaspberryPi_org.

One week left to help young people make space history with Astro Pi Mission Zero

It’s still not too late for young people to take part in this year’s Astro Pi beginners’ coding activity, Mission Zero, and suggest their ideas for the names for the two new Astro Pi units! Astro Pi Mission Zero is still open until next Friday, 18 March.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

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Create 3D worlds with code on our first-ever Unity livestream

We are super excited to host a livestream to introduce young coders to creating 3D worlds with Unity. Tune in at 18:30 GMT on Thursday 24 March 2022 on YouTube to find out all about our free online learning path for getting started with Unity.

If you know young coders who love gaming, digital art, or storytelling and need a new programming challenge, this is the event for them. So mark your calendars!

Our free Unity project path, in partnership with Unity Technologies

In January, we launched an all-new online learning path of Unity projects, in partnership with Unity. With this path, youth who enjoy writing code will learn how to start using the free Unity Real-Time Development Platform to build their own digital 3D games and worlds.

A teenage girl presenting a digital making project on a tablet

Professional developers are using Unity to create well-known games such as Mario Kart Tour and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. We’ve partnered with Unity to offer any young person, anywhere, the opportunity to take their first steps in creating virtual worlds using real-time 3D. The five-part Unity path we offer is educational and shows young people that if they can imagine something, then they can create it digitally with Unity. 

Who is the Unity livestream for? Why should young people join?

For young people, coding in Unity can be a fun experience of creating their own 3D worlds. And it also helps them learn skills that can be useful and desirable in the tech sector.

Unity is a step up for young people who have coded in a text-based language before and are interested in creating interactive 3D games and stories. In Unity, they’ll write code in the programming language C# — pronounced ‘cee sharp’. It’s a great opportunity to build on their existing coding and problem-solving skills.

Four young coders show off their tech project for Coolest Projects.

Introducing young people to Unity means that they will begin to use the same tools as professional 3D developers. Maybe attending the Unity livestream is going to be your coders’ first step towards creating the next videogame sensation.

What will happen on the livestream? 

The livestream will run for around 45 minutes. It will be the perfect introduction to Unity and our project path for you and your experienced coders.  

The livestream will include: 

  1. A ‘question and answer’ section with Unity expert Thomas Winkley. Thomas is a Unity Certified Programmer and product evangelist. He’s passionate about helping others learn new skills and follow their interests. Thomas will be answering your questions about Unity and what you can do with it, as well as talking about some of the cool creations he’s made. 
  2. An introduction to the Unity project path with Liz from our team: You’ll get to ask your questions about our Unity project path, and you’ll learn what you can make with each project and see an example of a final project — like what you’ll create by completing the project path. 
  3. A live coding section with Rebecca and Mr C: Your young people get to join in coding their first characters and objects in the 3D environment of Unity.  

By joining the livestream, your young people will: 

  • Learn more about Unity and get inspired to start creating
  • See what our free online Unity learning path is all about and understand what they’ll get from completing it
  • Have the chance to see what it’s like to make their own creations with Unity, and code along if they want to      

Do you need to do anything before the livestream? 

The livestream takes place on Thursday 24 March at 18:30 GMT on our YouTube channel. Everyone can tune in without signing up, wherever you are in the world. If you have a Google account, you can click the ‘Set a reminder’ button to make sure you and your keen coders don’t miss a thing.

Unity is free for anyone to use. If your young people want to code along during the livestream, they need to prepare by downloading and installing all the free software beforehand. Young people will need to:

We cannot wait for you to join us and our special guests on our Unity livestream!

Share Unity creations at Coolest Projects Global

Whatever your young people create with Unity — or other digital tech —, they can register to share it for the world to see in the online gallery of Coolest Projects Global. This is our free and completely online tech showcase, for young people up to age 18 all over the world.

Coolest Projects logo.

Registering to showcase their tech creation means young people will get cool swag, feedback on what they’ve made, and a chance to win recognition from our special judges. And above all, they’ll become part of a worldwide community of young tech creators who celebrate and inspire each other.

Find out more at coolestprojects.org.

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Bias in the machine: How can we address gender bias in AI?

At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we’ve been thinking about questions relating to artificial intelligence (AI) education and data science education for several months now, inviting experts to share their perspectives in a series of very well-attended seminars. At the same time, we’ve been running a programme of research trials to find out what interventions in school might successfully improve gender balance in computing. We’re learning a lot, and one primary lesson is that these topics are not discrete: there are relationships between them.

We can’t talk about AI education — or computer science education more generally — without considering the context in which we deliver it, and the societal issues surrounding computing, AI, and data. For this International Women’s Day, I’m writing about the intersection of AI and gender, particularly with respect to gender bias in machine learning.

The quest for gender equality

Gender inequality is everywhere, and researchers, activists, and initiatives, and governments themselves, have struggled since the 1960s to tackle it. As women and girls around the world continue to suffer from discrimination, the United Nations has pledged, in its Sustainable Development Goals, to achieve gender equality and to empower all women and girls.

While progress has been made, new developments in technology may be threatening to undo this. As Susan Leahy, a machine learning researcher from the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, puts it:

Artificial intelligence is increasingly influencing the opinions and behaviour of people in everyday life. However, the over-representation of men in the design of these technologies could quietly undo decades of advances in gender equality.

Susan Leavy, 2018 [1]

Gender-biased data

In her 2019 award-winning book Invisible Women: Exploring Data Bias in a World Designed for Men [2], Caroline Ceriado Perez discusses the effects of gender-biased data. She describes, for example, how the designs of cities, workplaces, smartphones, and even crash test dummies are all based on data gathered from men. She also discusses that medical research has historically been conducted by men, on male bodies.

Looking at this problem from a different angle, researcher Mayra Buvinic and her colleagues highlight that in most countries of the world, there are no sources of data that capture the differences between male and female participation in civil society organisations, or in local advisory or decision making bodies [3]. A lack of data about girls and women will surely impact decision making negatively. 

Bias in machine learning

Machine learning (ML) is a type of artificial intelligence technology that relies on vast datasets for training. ML is currently being use in various systems for automated decision making. Bias in datasets for training ML models can be caused in several ways. For example, datasets can be biased because they are incomplete or skewed (as is the case in datasets which lack data about women). Another example is that datasets can be biased because of the use of incorrect labels by people who annotate the data. Annotating data is necessary for supervised learning, where machine learning models are trained to categorise data into categories decided upon by people (e.g. pineapples and mangoes).

A banana, a glass flask, and a potted plant on a white surface. Each object is surrounded by a white rectangular frame with a label identifying the object.
Max Gruber / Better Images of AI / Banana / Plant / Flask / CC-BY 4.0

In order for a machine learning model to categorise new data appropriately, it needs to be trained with data that is gathered from everyone, and is, in the case of supervised learning, annotated without bias. Failing to do this creates a biased ML model. Bias has been demonstrated in different types of AI systems that have been released as products. For example:

Facial recognition: AI researcher Joy Buolamwini discovered that existing AI facial recognition systems do not identify dark-skinned and female faces accurately. Her discovery, and her work to push for the first-ever piece of legislation in the USA to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact our lives, is narrated in the 2020 documentary Coded Bias

Natural language processing: Imagine an AI system that is tasked with filling in the missing word in “Man is to king as woman is to X” comes up with “queen”. But what if the system completes “Man is to software developer as woman is to X” with “secretary” or some other word that reflects stereotypical views of gender and careers? AI models called word embeddings learn by identifying patterns in huge collections of texts. In addition to the structural patterns of the text language, word embeddings learn human biases expressed in the texts. You can read more about this issue in this Brookings Institute report

Not noticing

There is much debate about the level of bias in systems using artificial intelligence, and some AI researchers worry that this will cause distrust in machine learning systems. Thus, some scientists are keen to emphasise the breadth of their training data across the genders. However, other researchers point out that despite all good intentions, gender disparities are so entrenched in society that we literally are not aware of all of them. White and male dominance in our society may be so unconsciously prevalent that we don’t notice all its effects.

Three women discuss something while looking at a laptop screen.

As sociologist Pierre Bourdieu famously asserted in 1977: “What is essential goes without saying because it comes without saying: the tradition is silent, not least about itself as a tradition.” [4]. This view holds that people’s experiences are deeply, or completely, shaped by social conventions, even those conventions that are biased. That means we cannot be sure we have accounted for all disparities when collecting data.

What is being done in the AI sector to address bias?

Developers and researchers of AI systems have been trying to establish rules for how to avoid bias in AI models. An example rule set is given in an article in the Harvard Business Review, which describes the fact that speech recognition systems originally performed poorly for female speakers as opposed to male ones, because systems analysed and modelled speech for taller speakers with longer vocal cords and lower-pitched voices (typically men).

A women looks at a computer screen.

The article recommends four ways for people who work in machine learning to try to avoid gender bias:

  • Ensure diversity in the training data (in the example from the article, including as many female audio samples as male ones)
  • Ensure that a diverse group of people labels the training data
  • Measure the accuracy of a ML model separately for different demographic categories to check whether the model is biased against some demographic categories
  • Establish techniques to encourage ML models towards unbiased results

What can everybody else do?

The above points can help people in the AI industry, which is of course important — but what about the rest of us? It’s important to raise awareness of the issues around gender data bias and AI lest we find out too late that we are reintroducing gender inequalities we have fought so hard to remove. Awareness is a good start, and some other suggestions, drawn out from others’ work in this area are:

Improve the gender balance in the AI workforce

Having more women in AI and data science, particularly in both technical and leadership roles, will help to reduce gender bias. A 2020 report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on gender parity found that women account for only 26% of data and AI positions in the workforce. The WEF suggests five ways in which the AI workforce gender balance could be addressed:

  1. Support STEM education
  2. Showcase female AI trailblazers
  3. Mentor women for leadership roles
  4. Create equal opportunities
  5. Ensure a gender-equal reward system

Ensure the collection of and access to high-quality and up-to-date gender data

We need high-quality dataset on women and girls, with good coverage, including country coverage. Data needs to be comparable across countries in terms of concepts, definitions, and measures. Data should have both complexity and granularity, so it can be cross-tabulated and disaggregated, following the recommendations from the Data2x project on mapping gender data gaps.

A woman works at a multi-screen computer setup on a desk.

Educate young people about AI

At the Raspberry Pi Foundation we believe that introducing some of the potential (positive and negative) impacts of AI systems to young people through their school education may help to build awareness and understanding at a young age. The jury is out on what exactly to teach in AI education, and how to teach it. But we think educating young people about new and future technologies can help them to see AI-related work opportunities as being open to all, and to develop critical and ethical thinking.

Three teenage girls at a laptop

In our AI education seminars we heard a number of perspectives on this topic, and you can revisit the videos, presentation slides, and blog posts. We’ve also been curating a list of resources that can help to further AI education — although there is a long way to go until we understand this area fully. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.


References

[1] Leavy, S. (2018). Gender bias in artificial intelligence: The need for diversity and gender theory in machine learning. Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on Gender Equality in Software Engineering, 14–16.

[2] Perez, C. C. (2019). Invisible Women: Exploring Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. Random House.

[3] Buvinic M., Levine R. (2016). Closing the gender data gap. Significance 13(2):34–37 

[4] Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice (No. 16). Cambridge University Press. (p.167)

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How did we build the new Astro Pi computers for the International Space Station?

We are really excited that our two upgraded Astro Pi units have arrived on the International Space Station. Each unit contains the latest model of the Raspberry Pi computer, plus a Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera and a host of sensors on a custom Sense HAT, all housed inside a special flight case designed to keep everything cool and protected. Here is the story of how the Astro Pi units were built:

The upgraded Astro Pi units have been designed and built in collaboration with ESA Education, the European Space Agency’s education programme. The Astro Pis’ purpose is for young people to use them in the European Astro Pi Challenge. The film highlights the units’ exciting new features, such as a machine learning accelerator and new camera, which can capture high-quality images of Earth from space using both visible light and near-infrared light.

Astro Pi MK II hardware plus a Coral machine learning accelerator.
The new Astro Pi unit, with its camera and machine learning accelerator.

There’s an extended team behind the new hardware and software, not just us working at the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the European Space Agency.

“Thanks to our friends at ESA, and all the people who have shared their unique expertise and knowledge with us, […] we’ve managed to take two ordinary Raspberry Pi computers from the production line in Wales and see them end up on the International Space Station. It’s been a real privilege to get to work with such an amazing group of space professionals.”

– Richard Hayler, Senior Programme Manager and lead engineer of the Astro Pi units

The new Astro Pis are all ready to run young peoples’ computer programs as part of the European Astro Pi Challenge. The young people who successfully proposed experiments for the 2021/22 round of Astro Pi Mission Space Lab have just submitted their programs to us for testing. These programs will run the teams’ experiments on the new Astro Pis in May.

Your young people’s code in space

There is still time until 18 March to take part in the 2021/22 round of Astro Pi Mission Zero. Mission Zero is a beginners’ coding activity for all young people up to age 19 in ESA member and associate states. Mission Zero is free, can be completed online in an hour, and lets young people send their unique message to the astronauts on board the ISS.

Logo of Mission Zero, part of the European Astro Pi Challenge.

To take part, participants follow our step-by-step guide to write a simple Python program. Their program will display their message to the astronautsvia the Astro Pi’s LED display (complete with ‘sunglasses’). Parents or educators support the participants by signing up for a mentor code to submit the young people’s programs.

All Mission Zero participants receive a certificate showing the exact time and location of the ISS when their program was run — their moment of space history to keep. And this year only, Mission Zero is extra special: participants can also help name the two new Astro Pi units

The mark 2 Astro Pi units spin in microgravity on the International Space Station.

You can watch ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer unpack and assemble the Astro Pi units in microgravity on board the ISS. It’s so exciting to work with the European Space Agency in order to send young people’s code into space. We hope you and your young people will take part in this year’s Astro Pi Challenge.

PS If you want to build your own replica of the Astro Pi units, we’ve got a treat for you soon. Next week, we’ll share a step-by-step how-to guide, including 3D printing files.

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Celebrating 10 years of Raspberry Pi with a new museum exhibition

Ten years ago, Raspberry Pi started shipping its first computers in order to inspire young people to reimagine the role of technology in their lives. What started with a low-cost, high-performance computer has grown into a movement of millions of people of all ages and backgrounds.

A group of children and an adult have fun using Raspberry Pi hardware.

Today, Raspberry Pi is the UK’s best-selling computer, and the Raspberry Pi Foundation is one of the world’s leading educational non-profits. Raspberry Pi computers make technology accessible to people and businesses all over the world. They are used everywhere from homes and schools to factories, offices, and shops.

Several models of the Raspberry Pi computer.

Visit the history of Raspberry Pi

To help celebrate this 10-year milestone, we’ve partnered with The National Museum of Computing, located at the historic Bletchley Park, to open a new temporary exhibit dedicated to telling the story of the Raspberry Pi computer, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and the global community of innovators, learners, and educators we’re a part of.

A young person programs a robot buggy built with LEGO bricks and the Raspberry Pi Build HAT.

In the exhibit, you’ll be able to get hands-on with Raspberry Pi computers, hear the story of how Raspberry Pi came to be, and see a few of the many ways that Raspberry Pi has made an impact on the world.

Join us for the exhibition opening

We know that not everyone will be able to experience the exhibit in person, and so we’ll live-stream the grand opening this Saturday 5 March 2022 at 11:15am GMT. Keep an eye on our social media channels for the link to watch the video feed. If you’re able to make it to the National Museum of Computing on Saturday, tickets are available to purchase.

We’re delighted to celebrate 10 years with all of you, and we’re excited about the next 10 years of Raspberry Pi.

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Computer science education for what purpose? Some perspectives

As we’re coming to the end of Black History Month in the USA this year, we’ve been amazed by the variety of work the computing education community is doing to address inequities in their classrooms. For our part, we have learned a huge amount about equitable STEM and computer science (CS) education from the community, and through our own research.

A group of young people in a computer science classroom pose for a group photo.

In this post, we want to highlight two particular pieces of work that have influenced our work over the last year, shared by Dr Tia C. Madkins (University of Texas at Austin), Dr Nicol R. Howard (University of Redlands), and Dr Jakita O. Thomas (Auburn University, blackcomputeHER.org) at our research seminars.

Moving beyond access and achievement, towards equity and justice

Tia C. Madkins and Nicol R. Howard described that educators in schools (and associated professionals) need to build an awareness of how the learning in their classrooms might be affected by:

  • Personal beliefs, ways of knowing or thinking, stereotypes, and the cultural lens of the educator and the learners
  • Power dynamics and intersectional identities

They say: “Instead of viewing learners as deficient individuals who we need to ‘fix’ in our classrooms, we use strengths-based approaches where we as educators learn to recognise, draw on, and build upon learners’ strengths and lived experiences.”

The researchers encourage educators to connect with learners’ cultural practices and lived experiences, and to foster and maintain relationships with learners’ families and communities, in order to work together to facilitate equitable, social justice–oriented CS learning

To hear from Tia, Nicol, and their collaborator Shomari Jones, watch their seminar. You can also read Tia and Nicol’s article in our seminar proceedings, where you’ll find a list of their recommended resources to explore this thinking further.

Valuing existing knowledge and lived experience as expertise

Jakita O. Thomas described findings from her research project based on a free enrichment programme exploring how Black middle-school girls develop computational algorithmic thinking skills in the context of game design.

The programme was intentionally designed to position Black girls as knowledge holders with valuable experiences, and to offer them opportunities to shape their identities as producers, innovators, and people who challenge deficit perspectives. These are perspectives that include implicit assumptions that privilege the values, beliefs, and practices of one group over another, especially where the groups are racially, ethnically, or culturally different.

Jakita emphasised that it’s very important for educators to ask the questions “STEM learning for what?”, “For whom?”, “How?”, and “To what ends?” when they consider how to bring STEM learning experiences to Black girls (or other young people with multiple marginal identities). Educators need an awareness that the economic reasons of STEM learning, which are commonly spotlighted, may not be sufficient to convince young people who are marginalised to engage in these subjects.

To hear more about this from Jakita directly, watch her seminar:

Empowering learners to be agents of change

One thing these researchers’ work makes clear is that the reasons for why learners choose to engage in CS education are many, and that gaining CS skills to prepare for the job market is only one of them.

In both seminars, the speakers emphasised how important it is for educators to contribute to their learners’ self-view as agents of change, not only by demonstrating how CS can be used to solve problems, but also by being open and direct about existing technological inequities. This teaches learners to use CS as a tool, and to also examine the social context in which CS is being applied, and the positive and negative consequences of these applications. Learning CS can empower young people to address challenges their communities face, and educators, learners, and families can work together through CS on social justice issues.

Putting the power of computing into the hands of young people is the core of our mission, and we have a research project underway right now that looks at equitable computing education in UK schools. Find out more about it here, and download our practical guide for teachers.

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Bringing digital skills to disadvantaged children across India

India’s rapidly digitising economy needs people with IT and programming skills, as well as skills such as creativity, unstructured problem solving, teamwork, and communication. Unfortunately, too many children in India currently do not have access to digital technologies, or to opportunities to learn these technical skills.

A girl and boy in India learning at a computer

Roadblocks to accessing digital skills

Before children and young people in India can even get a chance to learn digital skills, many of them have to overcome numerous roadblocks. India’s digital divide is entrenched due to a lack of access to electricity, to the internet, and to digital devices. In 2017–18, only 47% of Indian households received electricity for more than 12 hours a day. Moreover, only 24% of households have internet access, with the figure dropping as low as 15% in rural regions. 

In rural India, a group of children cluster around a computer.

During the coronavirus pandemic, when children in India had to plunge head-first into adapting to restrictions, 29 million students around the country did not have access to a digital device. In addition, only 38% of households in India are digitally literate. At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we define digital literacy as the skills and knowledge required to be an effective, safe, and discerning user of various computer systems. Digital literacy in rural regions stands far lower at 25%.

We partner with organisations in India

We are conscious that we cannot solve these massive access issues. Regardless, we are committed to moving the needle for those young people that need access to digital skills and digital literacy the most.

We partner with organisations around the country that are committed to bringing access to coding and digital skills to the most disadvantaged and digitally excluded young people. Our partnership model includes:

  • Co-designing learning experiences 
  • Providing free, open-source learning resources 
  • Designing bespoke training programmes 
  • Supporting with technology solutions 

The Pratham–Code Club programme for digital skills

Pratham means ‘first’ in Hindi, and rightly so: Pratham Education Foundation, a non-profit established in 1994, has been at the forefront of addressing gaps in the education system in India. In 2018, we joined hands with Pratham Education Foundation to introduce coding to children in hard-to-reach, disadvantaged communities around the country. We co-designed a Pratham–Code Club programme to provide youth in underserved communities with training and access to devices and learning resources. The goal of the training was to build the youth’s programming confidence so that they could go on to teach children in their communities.

Two boys use a PraDigi computer at a desk.

To be effective, it was crucial that the programme be localised. We made adaptations to our learning resources and training content to make them more relevant to the context of the learners, and we worked with volunteer translators to translate the material into Hindi, Kannada, and Marathi.

We also provided the youth with training to use the PraDigi kit — an innovative, lightweight device, developed by Pratham Education Foundation and based on the Raspberry Pi computer — for teaching children to code.

Adapting the programme during the pandemic

In 2020, when we could no longer implement the programme the same way due to the pandemic and the ensuing disruptions, we made several adaptations: 

Firstly, instead of the three-hour in-person training we had previously conducted, we hosted multiple 30-minute online sessions over a week, using cloud-based platforms like Zoom. Secondly, we used familiar apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Workplace to share the training content.

A screenshot from a training webinar about HTML coding.

Finally, since the Pratham staff in the communities could not bring the PraDigi kits to the remote locations during lockdowns, we adapted the training content for smartphones and tablets, using the online Scratch editor and a phone-friendly online code editor called Repl.it. 

Over the course of the pandemic, we trained 300 youth from Pratham’s communities in the basics of programming and digital skills. The impact was:

  • 300 youth trained
  • 432 hours of virtual sessions
  • 350 projects with Scratch and HTML
  • 62% of youth said they were now interested in jobs that included coding skills

We also surveyed the youth for what non-technical skills they had learned during the training:

  • 66% of youth reported that they had improved their problem-solving skills
  • 60% of youth reported that they improved their communication skills

Where we are taking the programme next

Using a train-the-trainer model, we are now scaling our programme with Pratham Education Foundation to train 3000 youth from underserved communities. Once they have completed the training, we will help these 3000 youth pave the way to programming and digital skills for 15,000 young learners around the country.

In rural India, a group of adults and children pose for the photographer.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with Pratham Education Foundation to make digital skills and coding education accessible to children all over India.

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Linking AI education to meaningful projects

Our seminars in this series on AI and data science education, co-hosted with The Alan Turing Institute, have been covering a range of different topics and perspectives. This month was no exception. We were delighted to be able to host Tara Chklovski, CEO of Technovation, whose presentation was called ‘Teaching youth to use AI to tackle the Sustainable Development Goals’.

Tara Chklovski.
Tara Chklovski

The Technovation Challenge

Tara started Technovation, formerly called Iridescent, in 2007 with a family science programme in one school in Los Angeles. The nonprofit has grown hugely, and Technovation now runs computing education activities across the world. We heard from Tara that over 350,000 girls from more than 100 countries take part in their programmes, and that the nonprofit focuses particularly on empowering girls to become tech entrepreneurs. The girls, with support from industry volunteers, parents, and the Technovation curriculum, work in teams to solve real-world problems through an annual event called the Technovation Challenge. Working at scale with young people has given the Technovation team the opportunity to investigate the impact of their programmes as well as more generally learn what works in computing education. 

Tara Chklovski describes the Technovation Challenge in an online seminar.
Click to enlarge

Tara’s talk was extremely engaging (you’ll find the recording below), with videos of young people who had participated in recent years. Technovation works with volunteers and organisations to reach young people in communities where opportunities may be lacking, focussing on low- and middle-income countries. Tara spoke about the 900 million teenage girls in the world, a  substantial number of whom live in countries where there is considerable inequality. 

To illustrate the impact of the programme, Tara gave a number of examples of projects that students had developed, including:

  • An air quality sensor linked to messaging about climate change
  • A support circle for girls living in domestic violence situation
  • A project helping mothers communicate with their daughters
  • Support for water collection in Kenya

Early on, the Technovation Challenge had involved the creation of mobile apps, but in recent years, the projects have focused on using AI technologies to solve problems. An key message that Tara wanted to get across was that the focus on real-world problems and teamwork was as important, if not more, than the technical skills the young people were developing.

Technovation has designed an online curriculum to support teams, who may have no prior computing experience, to learn how to design an AI project. Students work through units on topics such as data analysis and building datasets. As well as the technical activities, young people also work through activities on problem-solving approaches, design, and system thinking to help them tackle a real-world problem that is relevant to them. The curriculum supports teams to identify problems in their community and find a path to prototype and share an invention to tackle that problem.

Tara Chklovski describes the Technovation Challenge in an online seminar.
Click to enlarge

While working through the curriculum, teams develop AI models to address the problem that they have chosen. They then submit them to a global competition for beginners, juniors, and seniors. Many of the girls enjoy the Technovation Challenge so much that they come back year on year to further develop their team skills. 

AI Families: Children and parents using AI to solve problems

Technovation runs another programme, AI Families, that focuses on families working together to learn AI concepts and skills and use them to develop projects together. Families worked together with the help of educators to identify meaningful problems in their communities, and developed AI prototypes to address them.

A list of lessons in the AI Families programme from Technovation.

There were 20,000 participants from under-resourced communities in 17 countries through 2018 and 2019. 70% of them were women (mothers and grandmothers) who wanted their children to participate; in this way the programme encouraged parents to be role models for their daughters, as well as enabling families to understand that AI is a tool that could be used to think about what problems in their community can be solved with the help of AI skills and principles. Tara was keen to emphasise that, given the importance of AI in the world, the more people know about it, the more impact they can make on their local communities.

Tara shared links to the curriculum to demonstrate what families in this programme would learn week by week. The AI modules use tools such as Machine Learning for Kids.

The results of the AI Families project as investigated over 2018 and 2019 are reported in this paper.  The findings of the programme included:

  • Learning needs to focus on more than just content; interviews showed that the learners needed to see the application to real-world applications
  • Engaging parents and other family members can support retention and a sense of community, and support a culture of lifelong learning
  • It takes around 3 to 5 years to iteratively develop fun, engaging, effective curriculum, training, and scalable programme delivery methods. This level of patience and commitment is needed from all community and industry partners and funders.

The research describes how the programme worked pre-pandemic. Tara highlighted that although the pandemic has prevented so much face-to-face team work, it has allowed some young people to access education online that they would not have otherwise had access to.

Many perspectives on AI education

Our goal is to listen to a variety of perspectives through this seminar series, and I felt that Tara really offered something fresh and engaging to our seminar audience, many of them (many of you!) regular attendees who we’ve got to know since we’ve been running the seminars. The seminar combined real-life stories with videos, as well as links to the curriculum used by Technovation to support learners of AI. The ‘question and answer’ session after the seminar focused on ways in which people could engage with the programme. On Twitter, one of the seminar participants declared this seminar “my favourite thus far in the series”.  It was indeed very inspirational.

As we near the end of this series, we can start to reflect on what we’ve been learning from all the various speakers, and I intend to do this more formally in a month or two as we prepare Volume 3 of our seminar proceedings. While Tara’s emphasis is on motivating children to want to learn the latest technologies because they can see what they can achieve with them, some of our other speakers have considered the actual concepts we should be teaching, whether we have to change our approach to teaching computer science if we include AI, and how we should engage young learners in the ethics of AI.

Join us for our next seminar

I’m really looking forward to our final seminar in the series, with Stefania Druga, on Tuesday 1 March at 17:00–18:30 GMT. Stefania, PhD candidate at the University of Washington Information School, will also focus on families. In her talk ‘Democratising AI education with and for families’, she will consider the ways that children engage with smart, AI-enabled devices that they are becoming part of their everyday lives. It’s a perfect way to finish this series, and we hope you’ll join us.

Thanks to our seminars series, we are developing a list of AI education resources that seminar speakers and attendees share with us, plus the free resources we are developing at the Foundation. Please do take a look.

You can find all blog posts relating to our previous seminars on this page.

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