Puzzles, robots and Raspberry Pi – Computer Science activity day at Firbeck Academy

In March, a team from the School of Computer Science ran a computing activity day at Firbeck Academy in Wollaton.

For the third year, academics and students from the School of Computer Science went out to the school to put together fun computer science activities designed to get the children excited about programming, technology and computing. The whole school got involved, with pupils spending the day taking part in each activity. Each year a new set of activities are set up and run by a mix of academic staff, researchers and students. This year, activities included:

  • Computer Science Puzzles with Dr Andy French: exploring some challenging ideas in computer science, and why we need computers and coding to help make sense of them. Pupils looked at why you need computers to help plan routes around cities, and to solve puzzles like a Rubik’s Cube
  • Making Noise with Raspberry Pi: PhD student Amy Dickens and undergraduate third year student Richard Davies introduced the pupils at Firbeck to the marvels of Raspberry Pi Zero (a small personal computer that can fit in the palm of your hand). Pupils helped Richard and Amy by learning how to connect sensors to the Raspberry Pi that could detect movement and trigger sound using Amy’s special code. Students then tried to sneak past the sensors without being detected.
  • The Don’t Smile Game with ERiSA with PhD student Andry Chowanda and undergraduate Tjaart Broodryk: the students played a simple game called “Don’t Smile”, with social game agents which are capable of perceiving the player’s emotions. The goal of the game is simple: make the computer smile and laugh with jokes, and funny facial expressions. The first contestant to smile uncontrollably loses. Through the activity, the students also learned about emotions – what are emotions and feelings, how we as humans can perceive those emotions and how a computer can understand such emotions.
  • Scratch Programming with Research Associate Stefan Mairhofer and PhD student Amy Lowe: pupils built code in Scratch that allows a robot to find its way out of a maze. With each run through the maze, the robot learns more about the different turns, so that it can find a better path the next time. Introducing the ideas of algorithms, and how we can define a set of simple rules to solve a problem

Speaking about the ‘Making Noise with Raspberry Pi’ game, PhD student Amy Dickens said: “It was great fun explaining how the sensors connected and worked, the pupils were really helpful and had some very inventive ideas about how they could use the sensors for personal room alarms to keep brothers/sisters and parents out of their rooms!”

Firbeck Academy is part of the Nottingham University Samworth Academies Trust, and is a primary academy with a focussed provision for the Deaf.

See a gallery from the day below. To keep up to date with news from the School of Computer Science, visit their website. You can also find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

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