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Andrew Mulholland, Andrew Bolster

In order for Northern Ireland to fulfil the aspirations of government, community, and industry in
the context of cultivating a digitally-skilled and creative workforce, we need to radically change
the way that STEM is presented to not only our immediate workforce, but to our business and
community leaders also.
However, despite economic forecasts targeting massive increases in start-up creation, digital
literacy, and high-skills workforces, Northern Ireland consistently fails in these metrics,
consistently falling into the last quartile in these key metrics across the UK.
Farset Labs, the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and STEMNET NI, intend to build upon our already
proven competency and experience in the areas of technology outreach and creative play to
invigorate the next generation with the philosophies of technological experimentation,
exploration, and entrepreneurship through the delivery of a sustainable outreach programme,
initially targeting post-primary schools, centred around the UK designed and manufactured
Raspberry Pi computing platform.
This programme will not only deliver computing experience to students, but will also provide an
opportunity for local technologists to share bleeding edge technologies and their working
experience with teachers and pupils alike, as well as developing and sharing best-practice
resources to enable educators to set up or improve their own in-school computing education
programmes.
However, this sustainable programme requires assistance to launch; we are trying to raise
8,000 from the technology and business community to develop and sustain the programme
through 2015, planning to achieve sustainability before the end of the 2015 calendar year.
With your help we can inspire and enthuse the next generation of technologists, through an
experiment-focused programme of supported exploration.

In June 2014, 172,692 GCSE entries were made in Northern Ireland. Of them, just 109 were for
Computer Science (5 were female) making up 0.063% of the cohort, and the second least
subscribed subject, before Humanities with 20 entries.
This is compared to subjects like ICT (7,750 entries), English literature (10,724 entries), Health
and Social care (598 entries) and Construction (583 entries).

Statistics at A-Level reflect a similar picture. In June 2014, 106 students sat A-level Computing
(of which 6 were girls). This accounted for 0.335% of A2 entries.
If students are not getting the opportunity to try out Computer Science in school, how can they
make an informed decision about their future path, whether that be university degree or other
options? And equally, if fractions of a percent are demonstrating an interest in an area that is
consistently pushed as being the centre of Northern Irelands future Knowledge Economy,
where will the people driving this economy come from, if not from NIs post-primary Computing
education?

The primary introduction pupils in Northern Ireland receive towards computing is Information
Communication Technology (ICT). ICT is focused on the use off the shelf applications. Historically
this means learning to use Microsoft Office products.
Although this is not inherently a bad thing, it is in many schools given the amount of time focused
on this. Today, ICT prepares you to be a personal assistant, not a software engineer.
Computer Science on the other hand is about learning to create applications in clean, efficient
methodologies using any tools that can be brought to bear. Computer Science is creative, as it
involves equipping students with the tools to creative their own apps, games and programs. In its
purest form, its a way of analysing the operations of every day actions, and making those actions
easier, faster, cheaper, and clearer.
These deconstructive problem solving skills apply far beyond the range of the computer
keyboard, and drive critical thinking across finance, business, and life.
This schism between ICT and Computer Science education wasnt always the case in Northern
Ireland; throughout the 80s, 90s and early 2000s, Computer Science GCSE, as well as
Software Systems Development at A-Level were common qualifications with significant uptakes.
Additionally, industry driven programmes such as the BIC Systems Rapid Advancement
Programme (RAP), provided conversion courses for people from many educational backgrounds.
However as a result of the collapse of the dot-com bubble, investment in Computing and
Software was dropped as it appeared to be a poisoned well, with focus shifting from the
development and experimentation of new computing technologies and processes to simply
instructing on the use of these machines from a business perspective.
However, its clear a decade on that that disinvestment in technology has hurt our economy, with
a significant high-tech skills shortage in Northern Ireland requiring that indigenously developed
industry bring in skilled workforces from elsewhere in the UK, Europe and the World to sate a
clear need for informed, experienced, technology professionals and thinkers.

Computer Science Undergraduate courses have the highest first-year drop-out rate of any subject
at 9.8% for the 2011/2012 academic year.Is this because it is too hard for nearly 10% of
students? We dont think so; we believe the high dropout rates are due to the students being
misinformed about what Computer Science actually is.
Secondary students have already had a chance to study modern languages, art, business
studies, history, maths, physics, biology, chemistry, and more. While undergraduates in these
fields would all agree that there is a significant step-change in difficulty, the fundamentals
methodologies and attitudes of the subjects remain. Students electing to tke these subjects have
a good idea what to expect, given they may have been studying them for up to seven years
already.
For a significant portion of students, Computer Science is not a subject offered at GCSE or ALevel. How can they know what to expect if they don't get a chance to experience it beforehand in
school?
Many students apply to do Computer Science at University as they believe it will direct follow-on
from A-level ICT, where the student is primarily a user of technology, rather than the reality where
the student is expected to be a technology creator and innovator. It is this fundamental
misunderstanding we aim to remedy

The Farset Labs Raspberry Jams are a series of free events aimed at anyone from 10-110 years
old, started in 2012. The events focus on using the Raspberry Pi computer to show kids that
Computer Science is actually fun, exciting and creative, as well as providing people of all
experience levels a platform to demonstrate their personal projects around the Pi.
The attendees learn to create cool computer programs and projects that they can customise and
expand to their liking.
A few examples include creating a reaction timer game on a breadboard, hooking that physical
interface to a game display written in MIT Scratch or Python, writing electronic music using SonicPi, or even learning to write programs to interact with the virtual universe of Minecraft.
These are fun projects children actually want
to do,
"It was my first Raspberry Jam and I was
quite nervous when I walked in but one of
the mentors came over and introduced
himself to me and explained what we
would be getting up to. He found me a
chair and showed me how to connect all
the wires together and by the end of the
Jam I was laughing my head off! I really
enjoyed learning how to make music
using Sonic Pi. I made the tune Frere
Jacques.
My favourite part was learning how to
code while playing Minecraft. They told
me I should try out learning to code
because I had never done it before. I used a programming language called Python to hack my
friends Minecraft games and to teleport them to a random place. I heard another kid start
exclaiming after teleporting her several times, initially she had no idea it was me! Andrew and
Libby were very supportive the whole day and I learnt a massive amount thanks to them. It was
great fun!"
- Haley (11)

So far we have run 9 Raspberry Jam events at Farset Labs, Belfast and the feedback has been
excellent. The most recent event in December 2014 hosted over 40 attendees, and tickets for
the next event in January 2015 have already sold out. These numbers are certainly pushing the
limits of our current capacity, and there is a clear desire for more events of a similar style.
We have been glad to see the Raspberry Jam has been just as popular with boys and girls with
our current average gender ratio at 50/50.

The Farset Labs Raspberry Jam stands out from most of the other Raspberry Jams across the
world because we try to provide all the equipment to attendees. This means the attendees don't
need to bring anything, they can just come and get making! This model is extremely rare among
Jams: most require participants to bring their own Pis, monitors, keyboards etc.
We want the Raspberry Jam to be as inviting and accessible as possible, and in order to
accomplish this goal, we have been borrowing lots of equipment from a number of sources each
month. Much of the equipment we are using is old and completely different from every other item
in the room.
Take monitors for example; of the 20 monitors used last month, there were 16 different makes
and models. The same is true for the keyboards, mice, power supplies and even the Raspberry
Pis.
This huge variation in equipment presents us
with very long setup and teardown times for the
event, typically taking 3-4 hours for 2-3 people
the evening before a Raspberry Jam to set up. It
then takes a further hour to box everything back
up at the end.
With setup and takedown times with current
equipment, it would be near impossible to offer
school workshops or any events outside of
Farset Labs main facility in Belfast city centre.

We would like to purchase a full (30 +


spares) identical classroom set of
Raspberry Pis and additional equipment
including
Power supplies
Motorla Lapdocks (combined
screen, keyboard, trackpad,
battery)
Raspberry Pi camera modules
Pibrella GPIO add-on boards
Basic bread-boarding and
electronic components (LEDs,
buttons, etc)
Networking equipment
Secure storage / transport boxes
We will not only use this equipment to
support the ever expanding Farset Labs
Raspberry Jam but also to deliver a number of free full day mini-jam workshops in local schools.
On top of mini Raspberry Jam workshops in schools, we also intend to run a number of teacher
training sessions around the same schools to share best practices with teachers and to
demonstrate how fun, engaging and creative Computer Science can be!
These workshops will be sparks that ignite schools (and pupils) interest in Computer Science
removing the misconception that Computer Science is the same as ICT; Computer Science is
about the art of creating technology to solve problems.
The program will be targeted at Key Stage 3 (age 11-14). We currently have three post primary
schools that have registered interest and a small-scale pilot in Victoria College with 120 year 8
students already completed and hailed by the school as a huge success. On top of this we have a
strong relationship with STEMNET NI (run by W5) who have contacts with all schools in Northern
Ireland and can provide signposting and programme distribution support.
Once weve demonstrated the success of this programme, we intend to develop a separate
programme aimed at delivering the same experimental, hands-on environment as a targeted
continuous professional development resource
The equipment will not only be used for the Raspberry Jam and workshops in schools. Other
events and programmes at Farset Labs will be able to request the use of the equipment. The
hugely successful Farset Labs Coderdojo has requested use of the equipment for their
workshops already.

To allow us to run these workshops with schools and continue supporting the expansion of the
Raspberry Jam, we need your help.
The above equipment and teaching provision costs 8,000 (inc VAT) for a year of operation.
We are able to apply for match funding from the Raspberry Pi foundation under their education
fund up to 4,000. As such, wed like to raise 4,000 from locally active technology and
education organisations to fill the requirement.
In order to deliver value for investment, we will be partially co-branding with any organisations
that come forward to assist us, including the opportunity to include material in any hand-outs and
goodie-bags.
The programme is being led by Andrew Mulholland, the 2014 UK TalkTalk Digital Hero and
supported by Farset Labs, the Belfast hackerspace.
We are working with the School of Electronics, Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at
Queens University, Belfast to recruit Computer Science students to help deliver these workshops,
as well as making use of the experienced mentors at the Farset Labs CoderDojo. Some of the
money will be spent covering their expenses, but the majority will go towards equipment and
materials to deliver the programme in the best possible way.
Farset Labs has run a number of events aimed at supporting coding, computer science and
inventing in Northern Ireland including the Farset Labs Coderdojo, Gathering of Lightning
knowledge sharing sessions, GlobalGameJam and other hackathons. The equipment will be
available to these other events and programmes on request.
109 students at
GCSE level last year
and 106 students at
A-level got the
opportunity
experience
Computer Science
in their schools at
an assessed level.
We don't believe
every kid should
grow up to be a
Computer Scientist
or programmer, but
we do believe every
kid should get the
chance to try it out
to make their own
decisions about
their future.
And as Haley (11) says "It is really reallyreally fun!"

About Farset Labs

Website: http://farsetlabs.org.uk
Address: Unit 1, Weavers Court, Linfield Rd, Belfast, BT12 5GH.
General Contact: info@farsetlabs.org.uk
Programme Contact: bolster@farsetlabs.org.uk
Connect: http://twitter.com/FarsetLabs // http://www.facebook.com/FarsetLabs

Farset Labs is a voluntarily operated hackerspace based in Belfast that opened its doors in April
2012. It is a shared facility for creative and technological experimentation and co-working, as
well as a popular event venue. The facility is open to anyone interested in tinkering and
welcomes people from all walks of life to use its space, attend events, and get involved with the
maker community in Northern Ireland.
Farset Labs is a registered non-profit company limited by guarantee (NI611278) on the deemed
list of organisations (HMRC Charity Reference Number XT33366)

Definition of Hackerspace
Community-operated physical places, where people can meet and work on their projects
(source: hackerspaces.org/wiki).