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Platten Fund donation brings Raspberry Pi to Northumberland

Cutting-edge equipment will help boost students' STEM subject skills

Posted by Hannah Oakman | November 03, 2016 | Secondary

Northumberland College is ramping up its commitment to turning out the next generation of young people equipped with vital science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subject skills, after being awarded a grant by the Community Foundation.

The £4,322 funding will pay for Raspberry Pi kit - robot base units, optical sensors, magnetic compass and range sensors - which will give 120 students the opportunity to take part in a major practical project and presentation.

The grant for the equipment comes shortly after Northumberland College announced it is investing £2.5 million on a new Science and Technology Centre at its Ashington campus, which will open in 2017, to help plug skills shortages in industries where STEM subjects are vital. New courses are being designed in conjunction with employers covering fabrication, processing, IT and digital, robotics and hydraulics.

The new centre will include specialist science and technology workshops with dedicated facilities, such as fab labs the next generation of product designers and entrepreneurs can access the latest in digital fabrication equipment for prototyping.

Jennie Beaumont, Vice Principal of Northumberland College, said: "We're very grateful for the grant from the Community Foundation's Platten Family Fund for the Raspberry Pi equipment, which will go a long way towards helping the new Science and Technology centre achieve its goals of turning out more young people with skills in STEM subjects.

"The practical project that students will be undertaking will focus on skills that will be valuable in the workplace and will showcase to North East employers our commitment to improving STEM education in the region."

Northumberland College's new STEM Centre will put it at the forefront of the county's approach to upskilling the next generation of technologically-minded young people

Northumberland College IT lecturer, Toby Bell, will deliver the Raspberry Pi practical project over the course of the 2016/17 academic year. The programme will involve 120 engineering and IT students, who will put together a showcase of their achievements at the end of the courses. 

Mr Bell said: "In terms of updating our equipment, this improves our ability to deliver at the cutting edge. The Raspberry Pi equipment is miniature so it can be inbuilt into almost micro PCs.

"Employers are looking for those skills in the communication technology industry: the more mobile apps we have, the more paperless we are and the more devices that are controlled remotely. They require young people to be more digitally literate so they can implement computers into the changing world. It's not about how computers work, but how we can make them work to do a real world job."

The Community Foundation grant for the equipment came from the Platten Family Fund, set up by philanthropist Tony Platten after the sale of his electronic engineering company Tynetec. Grants made from this fund aim to support young people to consider - and be ready for - careers in engineering and other science and technology-based professions.

Mr Platten said: "When I established my fund at the Community Foundation I had one goal in mind: to equip today's young people with the skills and resources they need to forge careers in science, technology, engineering and maths.

"Coding and programming is an increasingly important part of this world, and we have big plans to work with schools, community groups and colleges across Tyne & Wear and Northumberland to help ensure they have the resources needed to teach at the highest level.

"As a South East Northumberland resident myself I'm thrilled that one of the first institutions to benefit is our local college, and I can't wait to see the results of the practical projects that the students are working on." 

Coding and programming is an increasingly important part of this world, and we have big plans to work with schools, community groups and colleges

The Newcastle-based Community Foundation is a hub for people, businesses and charities that want to give to communities by matching their interests with those seeking funding. It has endowments of more than £67 million.

Jon Goodwin, senior philanthropy advisor at the Community Foundation, said: "The Community Foundation is all about matching the interests and aspirations of the philanthropists who give to us with the organisations who are best-placed to deliver.

"Northumberland College's new STEM Centre will put it at the forefront of the county's approach to upskilling the next generation of technologically-minded young people and, in the 21st century, digital technologies are a fundamental part of that”.

This latest development is a further testament to the College's commitment to advancing IT and Digital Skills, following the launch of its Huawei Academy in July. As part of the e-learning training in the Huawei Academy, students gain expertise on a wide range of key industry areas, including routing and switching, security, wireless LAN, big data, cloud computing technologies and IT storage technologies.

To find out more about courses in IT and Digital, please visit www.northumberland.ac.uk

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