Families Get Involved in Robotics and Coding at First CAFÉ Digital Making Event

Posted: March 14, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Over 50 young digital makers and their families attended the CAFÉ Family Digital Makers Day on Saturday 12th March for an exciting schedule of robotics and coding workshops. The event was held at the new Creative and Digital Centre at The Sheffield College Hillsborough Campus with modern performance spaces and high tech studios.

CAFÉ (Computing as a Family Experience) is a programme training Student Ambassadors from six Sheffield Secondary Schools in digital making, covering App development, open data, Raspberry Pi and robotics. Once trained, 90 Student Ambassadors cascade their computing knowledge, enthusiasm and skills to pupils in 18 connected primary schools and their families. The Saturday event was an extension of the programme, connecting young people and their families from all areas of Sheffield to engage in digital making.

Ada the NAO robot opened the event, welcoming guests to the day and also performing a dance routine and Tai Chi demonstration. Families were also provided with information, hints and tips on the wide range of digital making activities and computing careers in Sheffield, before heading off to the hands-on workshops.

The morning session was all about robotics, where some engaged in robot racing with Sheffield Hallam University, whilst others tried their hand at turning recycled materials into Agobo robots, using Bluetooth controllers to guide them around an obstacle course. A workshop for beginners was also on offer where participants learnt to build their own robots using Lego Mindstorms.

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Mike Garnock-Jones, from Sheffield City Council’s Lifelong Learning and Skills team, who lead the CAFÉ project, was extremely pleased with the success of the event: “It was great to see so many families engaging with digital technologies. A fantastic and inspiring event involving digital partners including Sheffield Hallam University, businesses, The Sheffield College, as well as families and young people. I heard one girl say before leaving the event, ‘I want this to happen again tomorrow!’.

“There is clearly a significant appetite for more events like these in school and out of school in Sheffield. The event has unearthed significant digital skills and interest from children aged seven upwards. For example, one 12-year-old has already produced a homework App and created a two-player game through Unity.  It was also brilliant to see two of our young 15- and 16-year old Ambassadors leading some of the sessions.”

The afternoon involved turning everyday objects into programmable touchpads using Makey Makey kit, alongside Scratch programming software. Catherine Elliott from the Sheffield E Learning Team demonstrated turning bananas into piano keys before the class used everyday objects and materials to make controllers for games created using Scratch. Others learnt how to create their own software application using App Inventor, leaving the session with a functioning app and the knowledge to continue developing their skills.

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Attendees were encouraged to carry on developing their skills to enter Sheffield’s Digital Making competition, CODE>MAKE>WIN, which is open to 9-19 year olds across the city. The competition offers cash prizes to winners and has a series of bonus prizes, one of which we can now reveal to be an overseas trip to Spain. You can keep up to date with the latest news and find more information about the competition at: www.codemakewin.org.uk.  To hear about the next CAFÉ Family Digital Makers Day and other similar events, please sign up to our mailing list by completing the contact form on the CODE>MAKE>WIN site: https://www.codemakewin.org.uk/#contact.

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