Primary school kids aged between 8-11 have been recruited from the most deprived parts of London to take part in Tech Zone - a series of tech workshops created and organised by community bank, Metro Bank.
The brainchild of the Bank’s Engineering & Transformation Team led by Chief Information Officer Faisal Hussain, the Bank ran 16 sessions with colleagues volunteering to attend the seven participating schools to teach the children basic coding skills using micro:bit. Metro Bank already has an established financial education programme for young kids called Money Zone - which it has delivered to over 2,900 schools and 250,000 schoolchildren.
The micro:bit was originally created as part of the BBC’s Make It Digital initiative. Essentially, they are tiny computers that have various sensors and capabilities like buttons, LEDs, light sensor, temperature sensor, microphone, compass, accelerometer, speaker, radio and pins to connect to other devices or extensions. They are very easy to programme or code using drag and drop blocks, but they are also versatile enough to do more advanced coding.
As part of the preparation, Metro Bank built a strong relationship with STEM Learning and became accredited as a STEM organisation, in order to facilitate training to a wider community. The Bank also created a train the trainer workshop to educate Metro Bank colleagues to deliver the programme in schools.
Metro Bank colleagues Chris Stringer, Alex Cotelin, Gemma Kervaon Taylor, Nirav Parmar and Darsha Shah ran the sessions as full school days in the seven participating schools. The day’s agenda included an ice breaker, followed by an introduction to Metro Bank and then basic introduction to programming, followed by showing the children how this can be implemented using micro:bits. Each of the children got to keep the micro:bit device they had created in order to continue their learning journey at home, or even to start teaching their parents, siblings, or relatives.
“As a community bank, we wanted to inspire the next generation – especially kids who may not have easy access to tech – to consider working in this field. Our ultimate aim is to create future engineers by generating excitement about careers in engineering and wider tech through awesome tech role models – namely our colleagues,” explained Metro Bank’s CIO Faisal Hussain.
“We had a number of key goals with this new programme. We wanted to provide the students with the experience of using and building technology; improve knowledge in STEM subjects with a hands-on, interactive learning experience; lay the foundations of agile engineering development with a focus on the core skills of collaboration, engagement and communication, as these skills both reduce errors and improve efficiency and encourage and motivate the kids with transferable skills.”
“This has been an amazing experience going into the schools and seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces,” commented Gemma Kervaon Taylor, Platform Analyst, Metro Bank. “The final quiz shows their comprehension and just how much they have enjoyed the session. At the end of each session, it feels so rewarding to know that I have been a part of potentially changing kids’ lives for the better”.
The initial sessions have been a huge success and have been delivered to over 300 participants, each of whom has earned technical training and certification.
The feedback from the pupils has been fantastic:
“Can we do this every week?”
“When are you coming back?”
As well as the teachers:
“Great session, all the kids loved it”.
“Can you teach the teachers the session, then we can run the session?”
“You are the first organisation to come in and offer us STEM support”.
Hussain: “Next year we are planning to expand and extend our reach for both inside and outside of London, delivering sessions to even more participants. Moving forward we are going extend this out to our stores so they can deliver these sessions in tandem with Money Zone and we are looking to work with STEM to be an advocate for the government funded organisation.”