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Robot maze challenge for North Devon pupils

How do we prepare children for a world where technology rules? We were at West Buckland School in North Devon in September to support local children taking part in a coding and robotics challenge.

50 primary school pupils from six schools around the area were challenged to design and build a small robot, then programme it to navigate a maze.

Using Lego’s Mindstorm robotics equipment and software, plus tape, scissors, pencils and paper, pupils had to demonstrate teamwork and problem-solving to overcome mathematical and technical hurdles inherent in the task.

Advising students throughout the challenge was Bray Leino’s Digital Technical Head and robotics enthusiast Bradley Stacey.

“Technology is moving at such a pace that today’s students will go on to do jobs that don’t even exist yet," he said. "I lead an expert team, and none of them learned about things like social media, blockchain or augmented reality at school.

"However, they’re able to learn on the job because they have a strong grounding in digital fundamentals. This event is great because it will give these kids that grounding.”

Brad’s advice to parents:

  • For parents interested in helping their children develop computing skills, there are clubs and projects available for people of all ages to jump into.
  • Scratch is an online platform and community from MIT Media Lab that lets kids create interactive stories, games and animations using a simple, easy to use coding system: https://scratch.mit.edu/
  • Apple’s iPad app Swift Playgrounds teaches users the fundamentals of Swift, the code used to build some of the most popular apps. It requires no coding knowledge whatsoever, and leads the user through ever more complex puzzles and challenges: https://www.apple.com/uk/swift/playgrounds/
  • Raspberry Pi is a small, cheap computer that you can use to learn simple programming techniques. The Raspberry Pi team have a whole site dedicated nifty projects you can do with their amazing £30 computer: https://www.raspberrypi.org/

West Buckland’s Headmaster is Phillip Stapleton: “We're launching a broad programme of events, across the age groups, that introduce students to the concepts of critical and creative thinking and technical problem solving," he said. "These are qualities that innovative companies, such as Bray Leino, seek more and more from their people.”

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