Visit to Bristol’s tech hub inspires Code Club kids


West Town Lane Academy’s Code Club got an opportunity to visit Bristol’s tech hub, Engine Shed, on 22 April to see some real world applications of coding in startup companies based in the city.

Opposable Games’ Ground Shatter and YellowDogInteractive Scientific and Aptcore, all from Engine Shed tenant’s SETsquared Bristol, will be demonstrating the variety of applications for technology and coding.

Matthew Lane, Assistant Head at West Town LaneAcademy in Brislington, who has been running a Code Club at the school for almost two years said

“Visiting Engine Shed is an amazing opportunity for our Code Club pupils to see where their interest in tech and coding can take them. Having the opportunity to speak to people at the forefront of new technology opens their eyes to possibilities and puts their learning in context. At school we’re preparing children for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet, and this experience gives them a sense of what is cutting-edge at the moment, and hopefully will inspire them into being our future entrepreneurs.”

The clubs are designed for children aged 9 – 11 years and there are already 25 clubs running in primary schools across the city. Volunteers are needed to get another 10 established and Code Club ran an event on 20 April at Engine Shed to sign up more volunteers to deliver this, but there are still more needed.

Over the next three years Bristol City Council wants to set up Code Clubs in every primary school in the city. Code Clubs are designed to give children the skills, confidence and opportunity to learn about programming and shape their worlds.

The council’s Cities of Service initiative, which works to encourage more local people to volunteer, is driving forward the Code Club initiative in Bristol primary schools while High Tech Bristol and Bath is delivering DigiLocal, as part of it education, skills and diversity special interest group in community centres across the city.

Anyone who’s confident with computers can volunteer – you don’t have to be a coding genius, but just able to give one hour a week during school term. Fun and engaging resources and projects, offering step-by step instructions to build games, animations and websites, are provided by Code Club alongside online resources to support volunteers.

Dominic Murphy, Chief Service officer for Cities of Service, said: “Volunteering at a Code Club is a great opportunity to help inspire a new generation. Volunteers will meet new people and also learn alongside the children as they build games, animations and websites.

“As well as teaching children how to programme computers, children will learn systematic thinking, problem solving, planning, design and collaboration. We want children to leave Code Club inspired to pursue other digital making activities. Who knows, we might even find the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg here in Bristol.”

Clubs can also be run in libraries or community venues and Bristol’s Central Library has launched a Code Club which is free to attend and open to 9 – 11 years old and they will learn to code computers using programmes such as SCRATCH, HTML and PYTHON.



Code Club case study: West Town Lane Academy

Matthew Lane, Assistant Head at West Town Lane Academy, has been running a Code Club at the school for almost two years. Over 50 children have already benefited from the clubs.

Matthew said: “We started our club before coding was officially on the curriculum and it has proved to be a fantastic way to improve the children’s understanding of computers.

“Our club was first established following a conversation with a local parent who worked for an IT company, but you don’t have to be a coding genius to get a club off the ground. There’s a whole host of resources and materials available to help you get started.

“We now have three Code Clubs running for three different age groups, with around 15 children attending each club. The results have been fantastic and the children have picked up valuable skills such as analytical thinking, which will help them in many other areas, and they’re also learning from each other during the sessions.

“Each Code Club is different. As well as the core coding activity we’ve recently completed a project where the children soldered their own equipment provided by google – and then programmed it.

“Some of the feedback we’ve had about the clubs has been fantastic. The kids love it so much that I even had one child’s grandparents contact me before Christmas to ask for coding gift ideas. Sometimes children who excel at sports or are very outgoing get a lot of attention, but the clubs are a good way of building confidence in children who are better at other things.

“I’d love to see Code Clubs established at schools across the city and volunteers are absolutely essential to making this happen. I’d strongly encourage parents or local residents to get involved if they can spare an hour a week. Don’t wait – it’s so easy to get involved.”

Code Club joined forces with the Raspberry Pi Foundation in November 2015, with the combined aim of giving many more young people the opportunity to learn how to make things with computers.

Supplementary quotes

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol, is backing the scheme. He said: “The technology industry in Britain is thriving with one new tech company born every hour in the past five years. Many of those companies are choosing Bristol as their base, so there are huge opportunities for local people who understand computers. Critically, we need our young people to have a deep understanding of coding in order to understand the world they are growing up in.”

About Engine Shed

A collaboration between Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership at the heart of Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone. Our mission is to stimulate long term economic growth by supporting business, inspiring young people to get involved and to showcase to the public and potential inward investors the exciting opportunities that exist here.

The building, formally opened by the Rt. Hon. Greg Clark MP on 2nd December 2013 after a £1.7m refurbishment program, houses a number of exciting components.

By uniquely co-locating a number of related entities and operating a central Business Lounge which brings together academics, entrepreneurs, business leaders and policy makers, in a high-profile, iconic building next to a mainline train station, the project is of global significance.

An independent Economic Impact Assessment in 2015 showed that Engine Shed had contributed £7.99m to the UK GVA in its first year of operation.

Engine Shed also houses the globally recognised Bristol SETsquared Centre, the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and Invest Bristol & Bath, the inward investment service.

In addition to the diverse workforce and innovation themes of activity, Engine Shed has also helped facilitate the creation to help stimulate increased investment activity in the West of England.