Robot Grand Prix

School and college students from all over the South West explored the technology behind robotics and computer games as part of an aspirational workshop run by the University of Bath.

The youngsters, aged 14-19, built robots out of Lego and designed computer games during a three-day workshop. On the final day they raced their robots on a track at the University.

The aim of the course, run in conjunction with City of Bath College, Wiltshire College and Weston College, was to inspire young people to take up computing and technology subjects and encourage them to consider progressing onto higher level learning.

The first two days were spent with two groups working simultaneously at Wiltshire College in Chippenham and Weston College in Weston-super-Mare. On the third day they joined together at the University’s Department of Computer Sciences to race their robots.

Some 30 students took part in the project which is being hailed a great success by both the University of Bath and the colleges that took part.

Awards were given to Patrick Foster, of  New College, Swindon,  who won fastest robot category and Alex Cox, of  Weston College, and Chris Burridge-Barney,of King Alfred School in Highbridge, Somerset,  who scooped the best game design category.

The course was funded by the Division for Lifelong Learning’s Widening Participation team and was also aimed at widening participation and encouraging applicants from under-represented groups to the Division’s Applied Computing Foundation Degree.

Annabelle Hearn, who attends Abbeyfield School, Chippenham, was one of only two girls to attend the workshop.

She said: “I really enjoyed this course as it’s a great way to meet new people who you wouldn’t meet normally and try something different whilst pushing your abilities to the limit and beyond.

“Being one of the only girls for me wasn’t a drawback and I gained a lot of information about student life at University.

“If I got the chance I would definitely go to this workshop again, even if I had to get up at 6am in the morning during my half term holiday!”

Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in 2004, 19% of students on undergraduate computer science degrees in the UK were women. Recently, this has dropped to just 16%.  Just 148 girls took AQA Computing A-level compared to 2,123 boys. Five years ago 3,628 boys took the exam and 297 girls.

Gemma Palmer, Learning Partnerships Participation Officer at the University said: “The course aims to inspire the next generation to embark upon careers in IT and technology and it was brilliant to see the students so engaged with computing activities.”

For more information about other workshops offered by the University of Bath visit www.bath.ac.uk/lifelong-learning/heworkshops 

The next workshop will be held between  4-6 July at Wiltshire College in Chippenham.

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