School pupils crack the code to turning a hobby into a career

Tech-savvy youngsters from a north-east primary school have been inspired to consider a future career in STEM after being given a behind the scenes VIP tour of the University of Aberdeen's science and engineering facilities.

The Primary 6 and 7 pupils from Hillside School, Portlethen, were on campus at Old Aberdeen on Wednesday 16 November, to meet with staff and students from the Business School and Schools of Engineering and Natural and Computing Sciences, to find out what studying at university is really like and to investigate coding-related opportunities beyond the primary classroom.

The visit was part of an Extra Curricular Coding Club Project that aims to extend learning about computer science and coding among pupils, and to inspire them towards creating games and robotics, with focus on developing skills for life and work.

The members of the Hillside School Coding Club took part in a Business School workshop where, in response to one of the UN's Global Goals, they had to come up with ideas for creating an app to support taking positive actions to enable making a real change. This relates to a challenge that they have been given at Coding Club, where they are to design, code and create an animation or game using Scratch or Makecode Arcade.

After this, they met with computing science lecturers Dr Rafael Cardoso and Dr Arabella Sinclair who spoke about the history and basics of artificial intelligence and the career opportunities that come from studying computing science.

As well as having a lesson in the new state-of the-art Science Teaching Hub, they visited the Sir Duncan Rice Library and one of the engineering labs, where Dr Elena Giannaccini and colleagues introduced the pupils to some of the University’s robots. They also had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a racing car that has been designed and built by the TAU Racing Society, before enjoying a tour of the historic campus, where the pupils had the opportunity to ask questions about University life to the student tour guides.

The young people, who usually meet on a Tuesday lunchtime, learn to code using Scratch, Makecode Arcade and Microbits. A group delivered a short presentation during the visit, sharing their knowledge and understanding of what coding is, its importance and thoughts on the future of coding and opportunities that may evolve in their lifetime.

Schools Engagement Officer Pam Cumming, who organised the visit, said: “This was a terrific visit, the pupils were really enthusiastic and keen to learn about the different types of programmes and courses offered by the University which could help them turn a hobby they are passionate about into an exciting and rewarding lifelong career.”

The Club have been lucky to have been awarded a Digital XTra Fund Grant for their Project, which enabled them to fund the visit to the University and engage with departments to support the initiative.

Hillside School teacher and Coding Club Leader, Fiona Lindsay, said: “Hillside Coding Club had the most truly awesome experience at Aberdeen University. The day was full of inspiring, mind-blowing and memorable moments. It exceeded my expectations in so far as it more than motivated, engaged and sparked curiosity in the Club members. 

“The quality of questions the pupils asked reflected the intense interest aroused by the jam-packed day of discovery and learning. We cannot thank Pam enough for all the planning and preparation that went into making the day such a huge success and to all the staff and students that made us feel so welcome at Aberdeen University and contributed to showcasing careers in STEM, opportunities for developing skills for life and work and experiencing first-hand what University life is like. 

“We feel privileged to have had this amazing opportunity in in partnership with the University of Aberdeen that has further ignited passion for computing science and coding and express our sincere thanks to the Digital XTra Fund for making this experience possible.”  

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