MMU’s pilot project ‘EVERYBODY LOVES ROBOTS’ came to a close on 1st April. Pupils from three local primary schools brought their robots to the ‘show and tell’ celebration event. And they were AWESOME! Check them out…

The Everybody Loves Robots launch event was on 25th March at MMU. It brought together 24 pupils from four local schools, escorted by teachers and code club members, umpteen MMU students willing to jump in the deep end and work with the schools, and support from Manchester Regeneration Team who gave each school a tech goody bag, Kevin Tan for bringing the NAO robot, Robogals for just being awesome, and Yasemin Allsop who brought along lots of fun stuff and helpers. The purpose of the day was to get everyone excited about digital technologies and making robots together.

Over the next four weeks MMU student participants went into local primary schools, in groups that mixed skill bases and expertise, to work with the pupils to develop a robot. (Check out the activity sheet, produced by the awesome Liz Smart here to guide the students and pupils along the way.) The pupils in Wilbraham Primary’s code club have documented how they got on at the launch event, during weeks onetwothree and then this wonderful video of the whole process…

The purpose of the project was to provide some focused activity to launch Learning Hive Manchester – ‘more hack and less yack!’ – and also be part of internal discussions and processes to help MMU figure out how it can develop an innovative and effective offer to schools and communities to help young people thrive in the economy and society of the future.

We’re proud and enthused at how well the project went. We had a clear and stated intention to just get on and do it, ignoring the absence of funding and various forms of institutional inertia and all the reasons to wait. The project was unfunded and relied a lot on students to take the initiative and deliver the activities. We want to be open about what went right and what didn’t go so well. We wanted to run the pilot with 6 schools. We were adding schools to the list at the last minute. However, we started with 6 schools but only 4 completed. A great achievement and testament to the commitment and enthusiasm of the Hive people, MMU students and those in the school… but one school felt a little let down and I don’t want to minimise that. On the whole the project demonstrates that even when everyone is incredibly busy we can make significant contributions to get young people enthused about technology and learning to use it.

So what else have we learned? Students are a great resource but where some are ready to get on and go into schools, others need a bit of support. We offered and ran support sessions for the students to learn more about the tech and teaching.

Next time though we’re going to invest more in the students before the project starts, forming groups and running training sessions a few weeks prior to students engaging with the pupils. We’re also going to look for funding and try and move it onto a more sustainable footing.

So… next time, what’s the project going to be about? Well, we asked the pupils what they want to do and they suggested a mind-boggling range of projects including bird houses with cameras (fireproof!), stop-motion animation, a shoot movie made out of Lego… and then building a car, a hologram, and a time machine. So watch this space for a stop-motion Lego movie coming to a cinema in Hulme sometime last summer. It’s going to be AWESOME!

If you’ve got any ideas or questions about what we can do next time then please get in touch.

James Duggan

This was originally posted on on the HiveManchester site.

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