Long gone are the days when coding for computer applications was solely the remit of technical whizz-kids.
These days, even primary school pupils are getting to grips with it!
That was certainly the case this week for youngsters in P1 to P7 at Springfield Primary in Linlithgow who got hands-on with the next generation of technology when the LEGO® Mindstorms Challenge visited on Wednesday.
The challenge was created by Generation Science, a touring programme of science shows and workshops for schools delivered by Edinburgh Science.
The Springfield Primary workshop was sponsored by DS Smith, a leading provider of sustainable packaging.
It saw a team visit the school to teach pupils how to programme robots using a very simple laptop programme.
Each robot contained a small computer and had two wheels that could be driven forwards, backwards and turn 360 degrees.
The eye at the front of the robot had a light sensor which enabled it to perform simple tasks such as following a white line drawn on a dark desktop.
The robot also had an ultrasound sensor, allowing it to navigate its way around an obstacle course and tell when there was an obstruction nearby.
P1-P3 pupils took part in a football challenge, while the P4-P7s tackled the more advanced Mindstorms.
And, according to science teacher Jean Tulloch, the children loved it!
She said: “We’ve decided to focus more on STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – because these are fields in which our pupils may end up working.
“So the skills they are learning now will stand them in good stead for the future.
“The pupils loved every minute of it as they were having fun, while learning. They all gave it ten out of ten.
“And it was chaos at the end when all the robots came together for a disco dance in the middle of the floor!”
The Lego Mindstorms Challenge couln’t have been timed better, as it landed in the middle of the school’s dedicated STEM week.
On Wednesday night, P6 pupils also kick-started a new initiative at Springfield.
Jean said: “We launched our first after school club focusing on coding.
“It’s limited to P6 pupils at the moment but 22 children have signed up for it.
“The idea is that they will become digital leaders next term, when they will go into other classes and show their fellow pupils how to code.”
And next Wednesday, parents will have the chance to see what their youngsters have been learning during a STEM open night.
Jean said: “It will give the pupils a chance to show their parents everything that they’ve learned.
“Some of the pupils will also be helping me deliver that presentation.”
Given the success of the Mindstorms event, the school may consider buying the equipment so future classes can also beneift.
Jean added: “It inspired the pupils so much that we we are looking into it.
“We’ll have to price it up – it costs quite a lot – and see what money is available in the budget next year.”
Whatever happens, it looks like this week’s Lego workshop may well have inspired the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs!
And that will likely be music to the ears of Joan Davidson, head of education at Generation Science.
She said: “We were delighted to take the tour to Springfield Primary.
“It is one of more than 600 schools in Scotland we will be visiting over the spring and summer terms to show young learners the wonder of science and its real world applications.
“We aim to improve the provision of science education in Scottish primary schools, to bring science to life in the classroom and to educate and inspire young learners in science.”
Peter Clayson, from the DS Smith Charitable Foundation, was delighted at the workshop’s success.
He said: “This great initiative provides students with a playful introduction to the technologies and skills that will be increasingly relevant to the workplace of the future.
“Inspiring future generations is a key focus of our community strategy.”
Lego Mindstorms Challenge is one of 15 amazing shows and workshops provided by Generation Science and powered by EDF Energy – designed to make science fun, exciting and easy to understand.
Since Generation Science launched 27 years ago, it has reached well over one million pupils in Scotland. It is the largest science education outreach provider in the UK.