The cafés use Raspberry Pi computers, which provide a simple and flexible tool for students to learn programming skills, giving them the opportunity to get hands-on with technology. Cloud hosting specialist UKFast is providing hardware, cabling, and training resources.
The project targets areas where gaps in digital engagement exist, including wards which have traditionally lacked the resources to deliver cutting-edge digital training, as well as all-girls schools which have in the past seen low uptake in technical subjects.
The sites selected for the project are Holy Name RC Primary School in Moss Side, St Bedes Prep School in Hulme, Alderley Edge School for Girls, The Hollins Tech College in Accrington and Factory Youth Zone in North Manchester.
Aaron Saxton, Director of Training and Education at UKFast, said:“I am proud that we work with a hugely diverse mix of schools in some challenging areas, where we can make a real impact to young people’s futures. We’re seeing first-hand the potential of digital skills to change the story of these young people, to provide role models and to help them look beyond the boundaries of their local area.
“The Pi Café project is the perfect vehicle to inspire students to look at online technologies, programming and computer science skills.”
Damian Regan, head of Holy Name RC Primary School, said: “The new café will create real independence for our digital leaders and develop a sense of aspiration. The new facility also promotes a love of technology, which we can use across the curriculum.”
UKFast’s team of full-time teachers are already engaged in a range of programmes across the region, delivering code clubs, workshops and masterclasses to students at more than 100 schools.
The expansion of the Pi café project follows the success of the first café at Broadoak School in Partington, which launched in 2015.
UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones said: “The impact of the Broadoak café has given us the confidence to roll out more Raspberry Pi cafés, to give young people and the wider community hands-on access to tech. The feedback we’ve had shows that young people look at that building as a really exciting space to go and learn something different from traditional education.
“With the Broadoak café, we’re seeing huge benefits in the development of the curriculum at the Dean Trust and the way pupils have been inspired.”
The new cafés represent a £100,000 investment in time and equipment and are set to launch early in 2018. The project comes as UKFast continues its work with the Dean Trust to launch a digital-focused high school in Manchester following approval from the government.