As Scotland continues to fight for increased digital participation in its schools, a handful of initiatives are leading the charge. At the forefront is Digital Xtra, one of Scotland’s largest homegrown charitable bodies encouraging more kids into tech through extra-curricular courses in fields such as robotics or app development.
Now, Digital Xtra has announced the awardees of its latest round of funding. 11 extracurricular projects across Scotland, from Orkney to Dumfries and Galloway, will split £50,000 between them to introduce over 3,000 young people to digital technologies and the career options that these skills open. According to the charity, five new awardees merited the funding after their initiatives, “demonstrated a creative and fun way to engage young people”, while the remaining six winners will enjoy boosts to their existing Digital Xtra programmes.
The awardees are:
- CAM Café, planning to extend its Angus Young Engineers’ programme, which teaches children digital skills through role-play, for pupils of Forfar Academy and other local schools
- The Apps for Good programme, a nationwide initiative which encourages young people to learn coding for the benefit of their local community
- A Formula 1 competition at Inveralmond Community High School, as part of the Schools Technology Challenge, which will see children design and race miniature F1 cars using compressed air
- The Scottish Council for Development & Industry’s Little Lighthouse Project, which uses lighthouses to teach STEM concepts such as electricity and light. The Lighthouse Project will use the funding to expand its reach to more local authorities such as Argyll & Bute and Moray, enrolling 360 more pupils onto the initiative
- Inverness Science Festival, which is planning to use the funding to go mobile and travel to a number of primary and secondary schools across the north
- The Edinburgh International Science Festival, building on the successes of their LEGO Mindstorms workshops delivered to ten primary schools in Dumfries & Galloway and South Lanarkshire last year. According to Digital Xtra, the Festival will bring a new workshop titled Roboconstructors to the schools, developing skills in programming and engineering
- Fifty pupils from McLaren High School, who will develop cross-curricular digital technologies to inspire other pupils at the school, such as laser harps and micro-wind turbines. These projects will then be presented during a McLaren STEM Festival, attended by industry experts and the general public
- New College Lanarkshire, which plans to use the funding to expand their VEX Robotics programme to eight teams from secondary schools in Lanarkshire. The teams will be tasked with designing, building and programming a robot to compete in the VEX Robotics Competition, with the winners progressing to the UK finals
- Stirling High School, developing a Digital Innovation Hub with the aims of helping their own pupils and extending their reach their feeder primary schools. In the Hub, pupils will learn programming through applications such as Scratch and Python, as well as use Raspberry Pi kits
- The Prince’s Trust, which plans to deliver a number of digital industry days for young people in their Achieve programme. The programme will encourage participants to try their hands at coding, meet employers, and learn about future careers in the industry
- West College Scotland, who will use the funds to build on the after-school coding clubs it offered to kids in the Renfrewshire area last year. In particular, students will work with coding programme Micro:bit and virtual reality
Kraig Brown, Partnership and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “The digital skills gap is well documented, and we believe the best way to tackle this gap is to engage young people through extracurricular activities, where they can be themselves in an informal and creative setting. Initiatives supported by the Fund will inspire them to be more than just digital consumers; they can be digital makers too.
“It’s been incredibly inspiring to see the quality and diversity of activities that organisations across the country have come up with. They are fun, engaging, and with the help of Digital Xtra Fund, they are more widely available than ever before. This is very encouraging for the future of digital technologies in Scotland.”
Damien Yeates, Chief Executive of Skills Development Scotland, said: “We are delighted to the see Digital Xtra Fund going from strength to strength and supporting projects which are addressing the gender imbalance and encouraging more girls into tech. The digital technology sector in Scotland is booming and the Fund is now well established to work with Scottish employers to collectively support extracurricular digital activities for young people. This is a great way to encourage the next generation of digital makers into the tech sector.”
Parties interested in finding out more about the Digital Xtra fund can find more information online here.