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Robots, superheroes and coding: STEM packs from CGI offer lockdown lifeline for parents

By Hector MacKenzie

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Trevor the Covid-testing robot, created by Harrison McKnight (10).
Trevor the Covid-testing robot, created by Harrison McKnight (10).

AN online treasure trove of free activities aiming to nurture children's interest in science, technology, engineering and maths is offering a lockdown lifeline to parents.

The chance to learn coding, create a robot and find out more about the environment is offered in a series of resource packs which also aim to spark interest in the possibility of careers in in-demand STEM areas.

The STEM from Home packs have been created and made available by CGI, the global IT and business consulting services company, whose Scottish headquarters is in Glasgow.

CGI hope by encouraging young people to engage in guilt-free screen time, they will also motivate them to consider a future career in STEM.

The weekly resource packs are aimed at six to 14-year-olds – although anyone can get involved if they want. These activities help children learn all about coding, robotics, the environment, and sport and healthy living.

Resource Pack 1 helps children learn the basics of coding and design by learning to code their very own game as well as designing their own STEM Superhero.

Resource Pack 2 takes a look at robotics and provides a step by step guide to designing your own robot, which you can then build and control in your own home.

Resource Pack 3 focuses on the environment and the challenges facing our planet, by getting those taking part to design their own eco-school, create their very own environment magazine and go on a nature hunt.

Resource Pack 4 looks at sport and how to live a healthy lifestyle, by teaching how to code your own skiing game with Scratch, design a healthy lifestyle poster and even become the next Joe Wicks by creating your own home exercise routine.

CGI says it currently has enough content to keep children engaged for up to 12 weeks – but the intention is to continue to create and develop more exciting and stimulating material for as long as the lockdown is in place.

Plans are also being finalised to keep all the activities available for children and young people to access once the lockdown is eventually lifted.

STEM from Home is based on CGI’s successful STEM camps, with 25 held in the last year across the UK. Four of those were run in Scotland in December and February, involving nearly 150 school children.

These one-day camps were fun, interactive events teaching students all about STEM-related careers for both primary and secondary aged children. Now going virtual, there are three resource packs which can be downloaded from the CGI website.

CGI also holdBring Your Daughter to Work Days where CGI workers’ daughters aged eight to 12 are all encouraged to come to the CGI office and learn STEM-related fun activities such as working with robots and making things on a 3D printer.

CGI business unit leader for Scotland Lindsay McGranaghan said: “Everyone at CGI loves STEM and everything about technology.

“Children are the next generation of tech geniuses and our team in CGI adore passing on our knowledge. We want as many of children as possible to get into STEM, and we can’t think of a better way to do it than through STEM from Home. I hope parents and children download our free packs and enjoy what they provide. We want them to learn something that’s fun, and also the key to all our futures.”

Case study

Harrison McKnight (10) and mum Jo Scott, a project manager at CGI live in Netherlee, on the south side of Glasgow.

Jo said: “Harrison has absolutely loved using the STEM activities, and I have to say they’ve really helped him. During the first week on the lockdown he wasn’t into doing any of his school work on his own and wanted me to be his one-to-one teacher support, so it was a bit of a challenge initially.

"However, we have settled into a new routine, and the STEM activities are key to this. So far Harrison has had a great week. He found out he’d won a competition CGI set up through its activity pack to design a healthy living poster, and he has been coding his Covid testing robot, called Trevor, which he is entering into this week’s Mini Superhero competition.

“I have personally enjoyed the variation and creativity the STEM at home projects and competitions provide to help me keep Harrison entertained and for me to teach him some new skills that hopefully he can take back to school.”

Where to find STEM from Home

To download the resource packs visit the CGI website here.

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