A team of Speechmatics volunteers help teach children to code at Cambridge Community Centre

Date: Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

As part of our ongoing partnership, last week, a group of volunteers from Speechmatics went to ChYpPS, a Cambridge-based youth group organised by the Cambridge City Council, to provide a coding workshop for the local children.

Last year, Speechmatics and ChYpPS formed a partnership in a bid to improve the coding skills of children in Cambridge and to encourage young children to learn the necessary skills required to thrive in a world increasingly reliant on technology. We now attend Brown’s Field Community Centre on a monthly basis to provide various workshops for the children.

This month, I was joined by three colleagues from Speechmatics as well as a couple of people from Frontier, to provide a workshop showing children mostly between the ages of 7-9 how to build a chatbot program on Raspberry Pi. The children used Scratch, a child-friendly graphical programming environment, to build the chatbot. They learnt all about creating a robot character that would interact with them to ask and answer questions. Along the way, the children figured out how to create and use inputs and variables and learnt how to build decision making structures into their programs. They had fun creating a variety of chatbots, some being happy, whilst others were grumpy. We had some elaborate chatbots, including one that took a journey on a rocket ship! The children came up with some amazing ideas, and really let their imaginations go wild. We even found that some of the chatbots were able to speak Spanish (or at least say Hola!).

We usually see familiar faces each month with the children eager to come back and learn more, but this month it was great to see some new faces too. The room was buzzing for the entire time and it was good to see all that brain work and imagination. We were all really energised by their enthusiasm. All the children have such great ideas and it’s fun to see what concepts they generate and where they take the activity. I find they only need a little bit of help to get going; their imaginations do the rest!

The session was particularly relevant this month with the recent opening of the Raspberry Pi store in the Cambridge Grand Arcade. It’s great to see the Raspberry Pi Foundation, also founded in Cambridge, opening up their first shop to provide more exposure of their technology to the community.

I’m already looking forward to next month’s workshop!

Interested to hear about what else we’ve got planned for our community? Read about our latest Go Meetup which aims to connect the programming community in Cambridge and spread the word of Go.

James Page, Speechmatics

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