Pupils get technical at Robot Wars day as part of county-wide skills development project
PUBLISHED: 16:06 23 July 2019
Harry Rutter / ARCHANT
Schoolchildren across Cambridgeshire battled their way to robotic glory as part of a skills development project recently.
Primary school teams from St Peter's Primary in Wisbech, Glebelands Primary in Chatteris and Mepal & Witcham Church of England Primary took part in a Robot Wars event at March Town Hall as part of 20Twenty Production's 'Bits and Bytes' project (BAB).
Pupils worked in teams where they designed robots to tackle different challenges such as coding, collecting objects and competing in an 'arena' for the chance to win a trip to Harry Potter Studios in Watford.
The final was the culmination of a series of activities over 16 weeks aimed at improving social mobility and other essential skills for schoolchildren in Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, whereby each team earned points based on their behaviour and task completion throughout the program.
Tim Nightingale, digital director at 20Twenty Productions, said: "We did quite a bit of research to see what the current thinking was around social mobility and some of the ideas that government and education bodies were looking at.
"There is a drive for robotics, artificial intelligence and coding as they were seen as some of the most important skills for the future.
"We also incorporate activities which are designed to develop what we class as essential skills for life, like problem-solving, resilience, teamwork and so on.
"They do 10 weeks of robotics and six weeks in the United Nations game, all based on environmental change.
"They work in teams of three or four and allocated a country from somewhere around the world, and they're involved in trying to solve environmental or climate issues within that nation."
Various schools in the county have participated in the project, which has created a lasting impact on both staff and pupils.
Mel Prendergast, ICT teacher at winning school St Peter's Primary, said: "They absolutely love it - they enjoy playing with the Lego and the coding side of things and it's been very good at team-building for all the children."
Louise Lomax, headteacher at Mepal & Witcham CoE, commented: "The resources we've been able to use have really supported us and it's had a really big impact on the school."
The project, funded by the Department of Education (DoE) via Cambridgeshire County Council, started last year and also asks pupils about their career and university aspirations.
Pupils were given an evaluation form to express whether they would like to or will go to university, with 35 out of the 116 that started and completed the project expressing a desire or a commitment to go.
Parents and staff were also interviewed as part of BAB, the majority of feedback being positive.
One teacher said: "It will be a shame to see it end."
A parent added: "My little man has absolutely loved doing this and tells me all about it every time. Thank you."
But despite the positivity, the project still requires support to continue its work in the near future.
"We do put time and effort to look beyond their immediate towns and villages because there are so many different careers out there that maybe they don't consider," Tim added.
"We've got another year's worth of funding for another 12 schools to take part, starting in September, and they're seeing a difference.
"I've actually got schools chasing me around about Robot Wars, begging to be in it next year.
"We have a job to find more funding or to go back to the DoE and say this has been such a success, we need more funding to keep it going from yourselves.
"As we know, schools can't afford to pay this themselves, they don't have money for paper; for robotic sets and for people to actually teach them how to do this, so it's a challenge."
Current funding for BAB concludes in August 2020, but 20Twenty Productions expects to exceed the target number of participating pupils.
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