New NCEE initiative lights up physical computing in schools

The National Centre for Computing Education is loaning physical computing kits to schools across the country

A new physical computing initiative means that primary and secondary schools across the country can now offer some truly enlightening lessons in programming.

Lights, buzzers and motors are just some of the real-world objects able to be controlled by physical computing kits now available on loan from the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE).

Classroom kits can be borrowed from the NCCE’s national network of 34 computing hubs, with trays including Raspberry Pi Pico, micro:bits, Crumble, and Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ devices.

Besides sufficient devices for a classroom, each tray contains the peripherals – LEDs, motors, wheels, cables, etc. – needed to complete units from the NCCE’s teach computing curriculum, designed for children aged from five to 18.

In addition, the NCCE provides online courses for teachers to develop their physical computing skills.

“This project is such an exciting opportunity to inspire students of all ages to learn about computing in new and engaging ways,” said Dan Elwick, a programme manager at the NCCE.

“[It provides] kit, content and training for free to schools across England that have not had the budget or expertise to teach physical computing before.”

From the archive: This month marks two years since the first cohort of teachers graduated with a NCCE teaching qualification

Besides donations from Micro:bit Educational Foundation and the Raspberry Pi Foundation, equipment for the kits is being provided by Redfern Electronics, Pimoroni and Gratnells.

“When I was at school, I was lucky to have a teacher who was passionate about exploring new technology,” said Joseph Birks, director of Redfern Electronics. “This set me on the path that eventually led me to develop the Crumble.

“I am thrilled the NCCE is embedding physical computing into its curriculum so that even more pupils will have opportunities to get hands-on with technology and be inspired to create the devices of the future.”

The initiative was also welcomed by primary school teacher and physical computing novice, Suzanne Kennard.

“As the computing lead in a small school, I am looking to develop and enhance computing across the school,” she said. “I liked the look of the physical computing unit, saw the loan scheme and contacted [my local] hub.

“We completed most of the sessions from the NCCE’s teach computing curriculum while we had the kit. As my confidence increased, I could set the class challenges to programme colours and sequences. At one point I asked them to make a disco, which wasn’t in the lesson plan! They really benefited from the physical equipment.”

To find out more about borrowing a classroom kit for your school, click here.

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