Raspberry Pi: encouraging children to learn programming in a fun way
How to translate IT know-how into something appealing for a new generation

[/one_third_last] Category: Corporate Responsibility (CSR)
Subcategory: Education of the Community
Award won: Innovation criterion

RBS Technology staff run practical programming clubs in London partner schools, with the aim of translating IT know-how into something appealing for a new generation This project links to the schools’ National Curriculum. From September 2014 coding will be on the computing curriculum and all UK schools will be expected to teach every pupil at least one hour of coding during the week.
Pupils begin to understand the possibilities of computers rather than just learning a package such as Powerpoint; they interact with business role models, and most importantly, pupils can develop career insights from an early age.

40 RBS volunteers currently support three partnership schools, on a weekly basis, teaching programming as part of either an IT lesson or an after school club, supporting 75 students and their teachers. The pupils are from inner City schools where for most English is a second language so programming stimulates their creativity and provides alternative ways of expressing themselves. 25% of the volunteers are female which encourages the girls to see IT as an exciting possible career opportunity. RBS staff use their business skills and collaborate with the partner schools to meet the challenge of simplifying complex technical ideas.

RBS Technology staff recognised that young people have little opportunity to explore IT and technology, and viewed it as impenetrable and complicated. This programme aims to challenge their thinking about computers as appliances rather than tools. Utilising Raspberry Pi, a credit card sized computer which plugs into a PC and a keyboard, makes programming accessible and fun for primary school pupils and develops their interest in exploring ideas and courage in technical experimentation at an early age.
The classes, run by RBS employees, teach valuable skills in computing, electronics and science more broadly.[/one_half_last]

This project has stimulated the pupils’ interest in programming however it does require the initial outlay of purchasing Raspberry Pi computers and the need for the availability of PCs in schools; it also requires a ratio of 1 volunteer per 2 students. There is also a heavy time commitment to write the exercises and network limitations. The programme started locally but there has been so much interest we are looking at ways to reduce costs and enable as many employees to take part. A trial of CodeClub, a later invention, is currently underway.

This project was initiated and is co-ordinated by the volunteers. Young people can demonstrate potential, excitement, creativity and innovation, with limited support; ultimately this will encourage a generation to become a workforce for the future that can adapt to an ever-changing technological world with competence and enthusiasm. It is not tied to banking as every business has a technology function.
Programming, a key component of one of the STEM subjects, encourages thinking through finding solutions; it develops an enquiring mind and a logical thought process. These are all key transferable workplace skills[/one_half_last]