Cardiff’s young app designers rise to TCS goIT challenge
An ambitious TCS pilot project has challenged 270 primary pupils from eight Cardiff schools to devise a tech solution to a real-world problem.
Modelled on the company’s global goIT program – a monthly app challenge, launched in North America and linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – this summer’s pilot tasked year 6 pupils (11-12 year-olds) to identify a pressing problem in their communities, design an app solution, and present their ideas in a competitive online pitch.
TCS technology professionals took time out of their day jobs to train teachers to deliver the scheme in their schools, offering six hours of modular tutorials and mentoring support throughout the four-week project (June 14 – July 9), the first to be trialled in the UK.
TCS worked with Cardiff County Council, a TCS client, to tailor the trial to the changing educational environment in Wales. Launching in September 2022, the new Curriculum for Wales will integrate computer science into the mainstream for all under 16s and encourage every child to be an ‘enterprising, creative contributor’ in their local community.
Alongside skills and knowledge, ‘experience’ will be given new prominence in schools, and Cardiff’s Local Education Authority (LEA) is working with external partners like TCS to deliver that.
LEA curriculum achievement officer Matt O’Brien oversaw the recent goIT test run: ‘The pilot has demonstrated how partnerships with industry can support the development of teachers’ pedagogy and the development of pupils’ knowledge and skills, through rich authentic learning experiences’. ‘This project is going to be an important resource for teachers to develop design thinking and computation within the curriculum,’ says O’Brien.
In the final weeks of their primary school lives, and after a year that has seen challenges to their learning like no other, the Cardiff pupils demonstrated creativity in spades. Working in teams, the children used elements of design thinking, storyboarding, wire framing and some prototyping to hone their app solutions, with the best ideas presented to a virtual judging panel via Microsoft Teams on July 14, 2021.
Problems identified showed surprising maturity from such young entrepreneurs. They included the impact of lockdown on mental health, loneliness, fitness and unhealthy eating. Other solutions tackled animal cruelty, the threat of plastic pollution to marine life and the shortage of cultural experience for young people, due to COVID, poverty and inequality.
Innovative app features ranged from mood trackers for monitoring depression to rewards for helping reunite lost pets with their owners. Gaming and opportunities to get involved locally were all in the digital mix and there was no shortage of ambition, with one Welsh-speaking team pitching plans for future expansion in four European languages! Using the technology to find new friends and access networks of support were strong themes throughout.
In the end, seven teams from four schools (Severn Primary, St Philip Evans RC Primary, Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Caerau and Ton-yr-Ywen Primary) pitched their presentations to the judges, which included TCS volunteers. The overall winner was a four-strong team from St Philip Evans, Llanederyn, whose app was a digital call to arms to clear local beaches of plastic and forge a community of active nature lovers. Judges were impressed with the winners’ enthusiasm, problem-solving focus and sharp presentation.
‘It was amazing to see not only the amount of work that went into all the presentations, but also the intelligence and insight that the children demonstrated,’ said TCS retail executive Sanjeev Jha, a TCS volunteer. ‘It was rewarding to see them apply all the techniques and tools they had acquired.’
The goIT trial is the latest addition to the range of educational outreach work that TCS supports year-round to inspire young people into digital technology careers. That work includes its flagship Digital Explorers programme that engages thousands of teenagers each summer in virtual work experience, with sessions led by industry experts and a diverse range of tech professionals. Like Digital Explorers, goIT reflects the company’s Building on Belief ambition of sharing knowledge to encourage innovation and inclusive futures.
It is hoped that the programme can now be rolled out to a wider age range of students across the UK. Early feedback from schools is encouraging, with teachers describing goIT as ‘invaluable’ in building skills and confidence.
‘The project was brilliant, it allowed the pupils to think creatively to solve a problem that was relevant to them and to the wider world,’ said St Philip Evans teacher Kelly Tsakiris.
‘The training made me feel confident in delivering the lessons and the pupils enjoyed every part of the process. It allowed children who sometimes don't have confidence independently to thrive working in a group. I would highly recommend it and would like to use it again next year. It was relevant and creative!’
The young Cardiff pioneers were keen to have their say: ‘I really enjoyed competing with others, working as a team and having fun,’ said 11-year-old Lena. Classmate Luchia discovered more than she’d expected: ‘I really enjoyed learning new things through computer science and about computer science. It made me see it wasn't what I had thought.’
TCS Corporate Sustainability manager Camilla Carlslund believed the pilot scheme had hit its mark: ‘The whole idea behind goIT is to spark curiosity and get students excited about STEM and computer science. After seeing the inspiring and innovative products the groups have come up with, I feel confident in saying that has, without a doubt, happened.’
‘It was wonderful to see so many students, teachers and volunteers show so much passion in what they had achieved,’ says Carlslund.
Read more goIT stories.