Celebrating the community: Sophie

It’s wonderful hearing from people in the community about what learning and teaching digital making means to them and how it impacts their lives. So far, our community stories series has involved young creators, teachers, and mentors from the UK and US, India, Romania, and Ireland, who are all dedicated to making positive change in their corner of the world through getting creative with technology.

For our next story, we travel to a tiny school in North Yorkshire in the UK to meet teacher Sophie Hudson, who’s been running a Code Club since February 2021.

Introducing Sophie and Linton-on-Ouse Primary School

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A teacher for 10 years, Sophie is always looking for new opportunities and ideas to inspire and encourage her learners. The school where she teaches, Linton-on-Ouse Primary School & Nursery in rural Yorkshire, is very small. With only five teachers supporting the children, any new activity has to be meticulously planned and scheduled. Sophie was also slightly nervous about setting up a Code Club because she doesn’t have a computer science background, sharing that “there’s always one subject that you feel less confident in.”

Sophie started the Code Club off small, with only a few learners. But then she grew it quickly, and now half of the learners in Key Stage 2 attend, and the club sessions have become a regular fixture in the school week.

“Once I did have a look at it [Code Club], it really wasn’t as scary as I thought. […] It has had a really positive influence on our school.”Sophie Hudson, primary school teacher 

Thanks to our free Code Club project guides and coding challenges like Astro Pi Mission Zero, Sophie’s Code Club has plenty of activities and resources for the children to learn to code with confidence — while having fun too. Sophie says: “I like the idea that the children can be imaginative: it’s play, but it’s learning at the same time. They might not even realise it.”

Sophie and some of her learners at Code Club.

Visiting the Code Club at Linton-on-Ouse Primary School was a joyful experience. The children listened intently as Sophie kicked off the lunchtime club session. As they started to code, there were giggles and gasps throughout, and the classroom filled with sounds and intermittent squeaks from the ‘Stress ball’ project. It was clear how much enjoyment the learners felt, and how engaged everyone was with their coding projects. Learner Erin told us she likes Code Club because she can “have a little fun with it”. Learners Maise and Millie enjoy it because “it makes you worry less about getting stuff wrong, because you always know there’s a back-up plan.”

“It’s amazing. Anything is possible.” Millie (10), learner at Sophie’s Code Club

Millie, Maisie and Fern from Sophie’s Code Club.

Attending Code Club had a profound impact on a 9-year-old learner called Archie, who shares that his confidence has improved since taking part in the sessions: “I would never, ever think of doing things that I do now in Code Club,” he says. His mum Jenni has also seen a difference in Archie since he joined Code Club, with his confidence improving generally at school.

Archie and a friend code together at Sophie’s Code Club.

The positive impact that Sophie has on Linton-on-Ouse Primary School & Nursery is undeniable, not only by running Code Club as an extracurricular activity but also by joint-leading science and leading PE, computing, and metacognition. Head teacher Davinia Pearson says, “How could you not be influenced by someone who’s just out there looking for the best for their class and children, and making a difference?”

Help us celebrate Sophie and her Code Club at Linton-on-Ouse Primary School & Nursery by sharing their story on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. […]


How do we create engaging online courses for computing educators?

With our online courses programme, launched in 2017, we made it our mission to provide computing educators with the best possible free training we can design. Five years on, here are some of the key stats about the courses’ impact:

We’ve produced and launched 35 free online courses We’ve created over 650 educational course videos More than 234,000 learners have participated in the coursesOver 19,000 teachers in England have participated through the National Centre for Computing Education

Designed and created in-house, each and every course is a real cross-team effort that involves a lot of careful planning and a number of different stages. Here we’re taking you behind the scenes to show you how we make our courses, introduce you to the people involved, and explain how we ensure our courses are of high quality.

But first, here’s some quick answers to questions you may have:

Our free online courses — key questions answered

What are the courses? 

They are online training courses to help you learn about computing and computing education. The courses are hosted on the FutureLearn website. They are asynchronous, meaning you can take them whenever and wherever you want.

Are the courses free?

Yes! All our courses are free when you sign up for time-limited access, which gives you full access to the learning materials for the complete course duration. FutureLearn also has a paid-for ‘unlimited’ option, where you receive a certificate for each course you take.

Are the courses right for me? 

They are aimed at educators, particularly classroom teachers, but they are also beneficial to anyone who wants to learn more about computing.

How long does a course take?

To help you structure your learning, our courses are divided into three or four weeks, but it’s up to you how quickly you work through them. You can complete a course in one afternoon, or spread your learning out and study for 30 minutes a day over three or four weeks. This flexibility makes it easy to fit a course into a busy schedule. 

How can I access the courses?

What goes into creating an engaging online course?

Creating our online courses is a team effort involving writers, videographers, illustrators, animators, copy editors, presenters, and subject matter experts working together over months of production. The entire process is guided by our online course producers, Martin O’Hanlon, Ross Exton, and Michael Conterio, who know a thing or two about creating high-quality learning experiences. We spoke to them about what it takes to create an engaging course. 

The educators at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. On screen: Ross Exton. Left to right in person: Michael Conterio, Martin O’Hanlon.

Hi guys. You’ve created courses on a wide range of computing subjects. How do you decide what the focus of your next course is going to be?

Martin: We are driven by the needs of teachers. “What are teachers telling us they want to learn? Or what are the gaps in the curriculum where our learners need additional support?”

For example, our Introduction to Machine Learning and AI course was introduced as a result of feedback from teachers that while the subject wasn’t necessarily on the curriculum, they felt underprepared to answer questions from students or provide context when teaching other topics.

How do you then go about planning it out and turning that plan into an actual course structure?

Michael: Working with the course authors, we’ll generally agree on the big topics we want to cover or questions that we want to answer. We’ll often also have individual elements that we want to fit in somewhere, for example an activity involving making a learning resource more accessible. From there it’s a case of taking the bigger topics and working out how we can split them up into smaller chunks, until we get down to individual learning activities.

Ross: But then we’ll end up shuffling things around until we are happy — not only that we’ve got everything that we wanted to cover, but that the overall structure makes sense. We often talk about the ‘narrative’ of a course.

What is your approach to pedagogy in online courses?

Martin: At the Raspberry Pi Foundation we have a set of 12 pedagogy principles that we use through our learning resources (including online courses). We take particular care to lead with concepts, model processes, and activities; add variety for our learners; and include opportunities to create projects. 

Can you tell us about some of the pitfalls with course writing that you’ve learned along the way?

Michael: Because the learner is not present, you have to be incredibly precise with instructions as you can’t help learners directly as they are working through the content. And even if you think something is obvious, it’s easy for learners to accidentally miss an instruction, so it’s generally good to try to keep them together rather than spread out.

Martin: Luckily, it is often possible to tell from comments that learners have shared when something is hard to understand so we can improve future runs of the course.

How important is the media you add to the courses, like animations and videos? What is the process for creating this type of content?

Ross: It’s essential! It brings the abstract concepts of computing to life. The media in our courses helps our learners to visualise the ideas we’re presenting in ways that are engaging and relatable. 

As we’re writing the course, we capture every creative idea that will best support our learners in gaining the knowledge and skills that they need. From ‘how-to’ guides with live coding, to physical computing demonstrations, or animations of robots, we think carefully about each image and video and how we’re not just telling the learner something, but showing them.

We then work with a brilliantly talented team of illustrators, animators, videographers, and presenters to create all of that media. 

And… action! We film all the video content for courses in-house, working closely with the educators who present the content.

There are lots of opportunities for social learning within the courses. Can you explain more about its importance and how we integrate it?

Ross: Social learning is a really important part of our online courses experience. Over the past year we have made significant investment to make it easier for participants to share programs they’ve written as part of their learning, for example, and for facilitators to provide support.

Martin: It is important people have the opportunity to share their learning with others. This is something often lost when taking an online course and it can feel like you are ‘on your own’. 

In the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s online courses learners are given the opportunity to ask questions, share what they have created, and provide their own insight in the comments. Educators from the Foundation facilitate the courses — responding to comments and providing advice is a big part of what they do.

Thank you Martin, Michael, and Ross. 

What new online course would you like us to create? Tell us in the comments below. […]


The names of the new Astro Pi computers get revealed

We and our collaborators at ESA Education are excited to announce that 17,168 programs written by young people from 26 countries have been successfully deployed on board the International Space Station (ISS) for the European Astro Pi Challenge 2021/22. And we can finally reveal the names of the two new and upgraded Astro Pi computers that Astro Pi participants have chosen.

Young people participating in this year’s Astro Pi Mission Zero had the chance to help name these two upgraded Astro Pi computers, which we sent to the ISS in December.

Astro Pi is more popular than ever with young people

A record number of 28,126 young people took part across both missions in the Astro Pi Challenge 2021/22. In addition to the 299 Mission Space Lab teams who achieved flight status with the code they wrote for their scientific experiments this year, young people wrote 16,869 Mission Zero programs that were run on the new Astro Pi computers. This is an amazing 84% increase compared to Mission Zero last year.

Mission Zero is perfect for beginner coders: participants follow our step-by-step instructions and write a simple program for the Astro Pis. The program takes a humidity reading on board the ISS and displays it for the astronauts. Participants can also include code to display their own unique message on the Astro Pi LED displays. Mission Zero teams are very inventive, and the young people made great use of the Astro Pis’ LED display to create pixel art:

Examples of pixel art images designed by Mission Zero 2021/22 teams for the Astro Pis’ LED displays.

Every Mission Zero participant receives a unique certificate showing exactly where the ISS was on its orbital path when their program was run:

The new Astro Pi computers’ names

This year, the deployment of all the Mission Zero and Mission Space Lab programs was overseen by ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. But before he could do that, he first had an extra special task: unpacking and assembling the brand-new Astro Pi units in microgravity.

The two original Astro Pis, named Ed and Izzy, travelled to the ISS back in 2015 as part of Tim Peake’s Principia mission. Since then, these two special Raspberry Pi computers have run programs written by more than 54,000 young people. They have done an amazing job and will return to Earth later in 2022.

This year’s European Astro Pi Challenge is the first to use the two all-new Astro Pi computers, which we sent up to the ISS in December 2021. They are packed with special features, widening young people’s possibilities for new Mission Space Lab experiments. Running this year’s 17,168 programs was the new Astro Pis’ first task. 

The two new Astro Pi computers on board the ISS

All young people taking part in Mission Zero this year had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: they got to suggest and vote for the names of the two new Astro Pi computers. We received nearly 7,000 name suggestions.

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer has recorded a special message for all Astro Pi participants, revealing that the new Astro Pi computers will be named in honour of two inspirational European scientists drum roll… Nikola Tesla and Marie Curie!

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The Astro Pi unit equipped with a Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera that is sensitive to near-infrared light is now called Nikola Tesla, and the Astro Pi unit with a visible-light sensitive High Quality Camera is now called Marie Curie.

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Marie Curie, whose full name is Marie Salomea Skłodowska–Curie, was born in Poland in 1867 and the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes, in Physics and Chemistry, for her contribution to pioneering work on radioactivity and the treatment of cancer. Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia in 1856, and his innovations in electrical engineering included alternating current — vital for transmitting electricity over long distances — and the induction motor.

Marie Curie

Nikola Tesla

Marie Skłodowska–Curie and Nikola Tesla’s work continues to impact all of our lives today, and we are delighted that this year’s Astro Pi participants have democratically chosen their names for the new Astro Pi computers.

Sign up for news about the next Astro Pi Challenge

The European Astro Pi Challenge will be back again in September 2022. Subscribe to the Astro Pi newsletter on the Astro Pi website to be the first to hear when the 2022/23 missions have lift off!  […]


Coolest Projects Global 2022: Celebrating young tech creators & creative ideas

Congratulations to the thousands of creators from 46 countries who participated in Coolest Projects Global 2022. Their projects awed and inspired us. Yesterday STEM advocate and television host Fig O’Reilly helped us celebrate each and every one of these creators in our online event. Check out the gallery to see all the amazing projects.

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During the celebration, Fig also revealed which projects were picked by the special judges as their favourites from among the 2092 projects in this year’s showcase gallery. Let’s meet the special judges and check out their picks!

Ruth Amos’s favourites

Ruth Amos is an inventor, entrepreneur, and EduTuber. She co-founded the #GirlsWithDrills movement and ‘Kids Invent Stuff’, a YouTube channel where 5- to 11-year-olds see their invention ideas become reality with the help of engineers.

Here are Ruth’s favourites:

The Hardware project Oura, made by Angelina and Catherine in the United States. Oura is an indoor air quality monitoring device that is tailorable, portable, and inexpensive. Ruth especially liked this project because she saw “[s]ome great prototyping and use of data.”The Games project Egg Dog, made by Oakley and Alex from a Code Club in Australia. In the game, players explore for collectibles and fight off enemies as they try to find the exit for the next level. Ruth said that Egg Dog was a “[r]eally fun game, they obviously learnt a lot in the process of making the game.”The Web project AllerG, made by Noah from a CoderDojo in the United States. AllerG is an accessible and crowdsourced database of menu allergens for people with food allergies. Ruth said, “The whole project was very well thought out”.The Mobile Apps project EcoSnap, made by Uma and Bella in the United States. EcoSnap serves as an all-in-one toolkit for anyone hoping to help the environment. Ruth said, “You really thought about the user and changing perceptions.”The Scratch project Trash-Collector, made by Rajan in the United Kingdom. In Rajan’s game, players take on the role of a scuba diver who needs to collect trash in the ocean. Ruth said, “I can’t wait to see more levels; it’s quite addictive!”The Advanced Programming project Climate Change Detector, made by Arnav from a CoderDojo in India. The project is a data dashboard and platform to track pollution. Ruth said, “I love that you can change parameters and see the effect that would have.”

Shawn Brown’s favourites

Shawn Brown is an award-winning engineer, designer, and YouTuber. He’s also a practical pioneer for neurodiversity and innovation — raising awareness of learning differences and promoting science, engineering, and invention to young people. Together with Ruth, Shawn co-runs the YouTube channel ‘Kids Invent Stuff.’

Here are Shawn’s favourites:

The Hardware project Flow On the Go, made by Donal from a Code Club in the United Kingdom. Flow On the Go is a COVID-19 lateral flow test holder with a built-in camera that takes a picture of the test results after 15 minutes and sends a photo of the results via email. Shawn said, “I’ve absolutely been late for things before because I forgot to leave time to do a lateral flow test and your invention totally solves that problem in a really clever and effective way.”The Games project Iron Defence, made by James in the United Kingdom. Iron Defence is a tower defence game where players defend against waves of enemies in a steampunk-themed assault. Shawn said, “Amazing work on seizing the opportunity to learn a new coding language”.The Web project School Management System, made by Nebyu Daniel in Ethiopia. The project is a system used to store centralised data for a school. Shawn said, “The level of detail and the amount of different areas you’ve considered is really impressive!”The Mobile Apps project RecyBuddy, made by Ryan in the United States. RecyBuddy is designed to assist and teach recycling to all ages. Shawn said, “I love how you’ve considered and implemented three distinct input options, giving the application a really high level of accessibility for users of a wide range of abilities and ages.”The Scratch project Learning Is Fun, made by Mihir Ram in India. Mihir’s project is about making learning about science and the environment more enjoyable. Shawn said, “I got pretty addicted to playing Garbage Mania, and the timing was perfect to make it just stressful enough to have to think and grab the item in the right bin in time before you miss it!”The Advanced Programming project Dog Smell Training Device, made by Roland in the United Kingdom. Roland’s project is designed to train dogs to identify different smells. Shawn said, “Well done on starting with achievable bitesize parts and then building it up from there”.

Richa Shrivastava’s favourites

Richa Shrivastava is the Director of Maker’s Asylum. It is India’s first community makerspace that fosters innovation through purpose-based learning, based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Here are Richa’s favourites:

The Hardware project EleVoc, made by Chinmayi in India. Chinmayi’s device determines the proximity and behaviour of elephants by classifying their vocalisations. Richa said, “I personally loved the project because it addressed a problem statement that you do not see in cities but is common in villages and forest areas where humans and animals inhabit together.”The Games project Runaway Nose, made by Harshit from a CoderDojo in Ireland. Harshit’s game uses facial recognition and players have to think (and act!) fast to score points. Richa said, “I have never played anything like this before and I can see that it can be really addictive.”The Web project Our Planet, Our Impact, made by Amaury from a CoderDojo in Belgium. This multilingual website calculates the user’s environmental footprint. Richa chose this project because “the calculators were a really cool way to really bring out the impact of plastic waste that we create!”The Mobile Apps project Watey, made by Yuuka, Akari, Otowa, and Lila from a CoderDojo in Japan. Watey helps families to save water easily and enjoyably. Richa said, “I loved the element of family bonding and competition that could motivate people to use water with scarcity.”The Scratch project Nature’s Savior Bilgin, made by Çağatay and Mert from a Code Club in Turkey. It’s a game to teach players about the environment. Richa said, “I personally really loved the fact that the project was focussed on the environment and also problems that we see in real life almost every other day.”The Advanced Programming project Jarvis, made by Siddhant in India. Jarvis is a personal assistant. Richa said, “I always wanted a personal Jarvis and this was so cool to see!” 

Elaine Atherton’s favourites

Elaine Atherton is Director of Scratch Education Collaborative. Elaine was first introduced to Scratch as an instructional coach while working with teachers in North Carolina. “It was amazing to see the kids so excited about what they were creating. I wanted to help them transfer that same energy to designing, making, and sharing other things, too — I wanted them to stretch their creativity.”

Here are Elaine’s favourites:

The Hardware project CubeSpeedee Timer, made by Tom from a CoderDojo in the United Kingdom. Tom’s project is a DIY timing device for solving puzzle cubes. Elaine said the project was “fun, playful, creative, and challenging!”The Games project Ninjas, made by Jaiden and Eli from a Code Club in Australia. Ninjas is an open-world action-adventure game. Elaine said, “The transitions between the different worlds are really cool”.The Web project Ubex Site Creator, made by Menagi from a Code Club in Romania. Ubex makes it easy for anyone to create their own website. Elaine said, “It is clear to see how you thought about how to use your passion for coding to create something for your peers.”The Mobile Apps project Green Nature For You, made by Iana and Cristina in Moldova. The app lets users report when trash cans are full. Elaine said, “[Y]ou thoughtfully consider accessibility and access needs of those who may use it”.The Scratch project Fun Relaxing Project, made by Konstantin from a CoderDojo in Bulgaria. Konstantin’s game is to help players relax while watching beautiful geometric shapes and colours. Elaine said, “The colors and patterns are truly relaxing”. The Advanced Programming project DeepFusion, made by Justin in the United States. DeepFusion is a web app that provides a graphical method for creating, training, and testing neural networks. Elaine said, “Your presentation is funny, thoughtful, and clever.”

Broadcom Coding with Commitment recognition

Broadcom Foundation has partnered with us for Coolest Projects Global to encourage young people who are solving problems that impact their communities. Their projects could relate to health, sanitation, energy, climate change, or other challenges set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Broadcom Coding with Commitment illuminates how coding is a language, skill set, and invaluable tool for college and careers.

The Broadcom Coding with Commitment recognition goes to A Guide to Climate Change, a website created by Sabrina in the United Kingdom. Sabrina’s site not only provides vital information about the effects of climate change, but also gives users a visual to show how important it is to lower our carbon footprint. Congratulations to Sabrina for using her coding skills to give people a guide to understanding climate change in an easily digestible and stylish project webpage.

Sabrina’s project, A Guide to Climate Change

And there’s so much more to celebrate!

You can explore all the young tech creators’ projects — games, hardware builds, Scratch projects, mobile apps, websites, and more — in our showcase gallery now.

All creators who are taking part this year can now log into their Coolest Projects accounts to:

Find personalised feedback on their projectRequest their limited-edition Coolest Projects swag

The support of our Coolest Projects Global sponsors has enabled us to make this year’s online showcase the inspiring experience it is for the young people taking part. We want to say a big thank you to all of them! […]