Last Saturday at Barton Hill Settlement in Bristol at the DigiMakers <local> launch, rocket ships piloted by chimpanzees flew through space, dance floors lit up to a funky beat and cats meowed. The event is a new initiative from High Tech Bristol & Bath (HBB) allowing young people to play with, and learn about, technology and software coding.
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Using SCRATCH, a free online software tool developed by MIT Media Lab, the youngsters there spent an hour developing their programs and exploring the software. STEM Ambassadors (local software engineers and IT professionals) from STEMNET were on hand to give guidance, but the kids were definitely in charge.
“Our members want to encourage greater diversity in the young people seeing high tech as a viable career path”
Some followed the activity guides provided, and some took a more creative route, but all had something to show at the end.
Programming for kids
The purpose of DigiMakers <local> is to take the tech to the kids. As John Bradford, Network Manager at HBB (pictured left), explains: “DigiMakers <local> is a direct request from our members, the high tech cluster around Bristol and Bath. They want to encourage greater diversity in the young people seeing high tech as a viable career path.
“Working with community centres is a great way to provide regular, informal, high quality activities that demonstrate the huge range of options high tech offers. And because we’re funded by our members, not government, we can continue to provide those options as the DigiMakers of today become the technology leaders of tomorrow.”
DigiMakers <local> at Barton Hill Settlement takes place every Saturday from 4pm until 5pm. It’s an informal learning opportunity so kids don’t have to attend every week. We plan to grow the awareness in the Barton Hill community so that around 20 kids can benefit each week.
“The kids were completely engrossed, we had to practically drag them out the room at the end”
John adds: “The initial response has been fantastic. The kids were completely engrossed, we had to practically drag them out the room at the end. The Ambassadors had great fun, and the parents were amazed by what had been achieved in such a short time. Several of them took away web links to the resources for the kids to play with before next week’s session. We’re already looking at more venues across the region, and sponsorship to support that.”
More venues are being planned and if you’d like to be a host, or a volunteer, for DigiMakers <local> please contact John Bradford. You can keep up with more from High Tech Bristol & Bath at the HBB website.