HELP is on hand for parents hoping to inspire their children at home during the coronavirus lockdown – and it’s all free.

Recognising that most parents are not trained teachers and may be slightly stretched trying to educate and keep their children entertained, global IT and business consulting services firm CGI has released an online programme which is being given an enthusiastic response.

“Packs are educational, but most importantly excite and inspire children,” said one of its creators Luke Kittow. “The content is informative, with the primary aim being to inspire the next generation of budding STEM enthusiasts.”  

Utilising a variety of technical, physical and active activities, CGI UK sees the experience as an opportunity to help teach children about the STEM industry and inspire them to get involved and potentially consider it as a career option. In the case of CGI members, it provides the opportunity for parents to teach their children about the industries that CGI operate in.

The programme has been born from the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) camps that CGI has been running for the past year in UK schools and communities to encourage students to think about a STEM career.These have been so well received that when the coronavirus lockdown was announced, Kittow had a packed diary of events which had to be postponed.

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It was then decided to try and recreate the camps online and, incredibly, the technological wizards at CGI managed to have STEM from Home up and running within two days.

It was trialled internally but went down so well that, after just the first week, staff asked to share it with family, friends and clients.

As the demand was there, CGI decided to make it accessible online for anyone to use, with new content released every Wednesday to keep youngsters engaged.

Aimed at children aged between six and 14-years-old, activities are designed to be completed from home with minimal resources necessary for activities that include designing a robot and creating a STEM superhero. As well as competitions and programming, children are also challenged to take part in physical activities, including nature trails and designing their own home exercise routine.

“The STEM camps are the flagship programme of the CGI corporate social responsibility programme and we thought it was important to continue to inspire the next generation,” said Kittow. 

“The key aspect of the online programme is that the activities can all be completed from home, everyone can get involved and parents don’t have to go out and buy resources. It aims to spark interest in the topics for children, allowing them to realise the effects on their own lives and maybe consider careers in the respective industries.”

Topics covered so far include robotics, coding, helping the environment, sport and healthy living, with engineering, space and more still to come.

The programme will remain on the CGI website post lockdown, allowing parents to continue to help build the next generation of STEM talent from home.

CGI’s Philippa Green said the online programme was reaching a wider and more varied audience than the company’s STEM camps.

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“With the camps we are trying to target individuals that are under-represented in the industry like females and people from disadvantaged areas but this is reaching further and anyone can be involved,” she said. 

“Although it is aimed at six to 14-year-olds, all students can take activities as far as they like. We’ve had competition entries from four-year-olds up to 16-year-olds so we are engaging most age groups.”

Green added: “The camps came to a prompt halt because of Covid-19 but we did not want to disappoint people and wanted to continue the momentum we had started so it made sense to take it online. We also wanted to support our members with children who are working at home and give them something different to do.”

She said they had been “pleasantly surprised” at the reaction to the programme which has now been picked up by CGI’s offices in Australia, India, Canada and Belgium. 

“People just wondered what on earth they were going to do with their children and this is a simple way to keep them occupied,” said Green.

TASK ONE: CODING

TIME: 
Each activity should take approx one hour (three activities)
 
Resources required:
PC with internet 
Pens and paper
Recycled items for craft and physical activities. All items can be found in the home.

THE first pack in the series looks at two very important STEM skills: coding and design. 

The first activity is learning how to make a racing game where the player uses their mouse to navigate a boat to an island without bumping into obstacles while the bonus activity is to design a superhero. The superhero can be related to any area of STEM and should have their own designated super power.

Designs can be drawn by hand, drawn electronically or created as a model. Other than its super power, important points to consider when creating the superhero include how they will they help in the world of STEM. Once complete the superhero can be uploaded to social media.

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Other activities include one called Binary where students make a game where they play the notes of a song. Beat the Goalie is a project where participants learn how to create a two player football game in which they have to score as many goals as they can in 30 seconds. 

In Bird Watch Website 1.0, players can learn how to code their first website using HTML/CSS. 

The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Map activity involves creating a real map of the player’s local area and marking on it the locations of supplies, secret 
bases – and zombies.

Lastly participants can start learning how to code in a fun way with Python in the Turtle Snowflakes activity where they are asked to create a beautiful landscape of snowflakes using Python Turtle. 

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TASK TWO: ROBOTICS

TIME: 
Each activity should take approx one hour (three activities)
 
Resources required:
PC with internet 
Pens and paper
Recycled items for craft and physical activities. All items can be found in the home.

THE second pack in the series looks at robotics. While learning about robotics and the important role they play in everyone’s lives, participants also learn how to build and control their own robot.

After learning how to use basic programming constructs to create simple programmes and mastering the digital design, the next task is to build a robot using materials that can be found around the house. 

Before building the robot, the children are asked to consider the materials they are using – whether they are eco-friendly, lightweight or hardwearing. They are also asked to give the robot a name ad a purpose, such as replicating or automating human behaviour.

Once that’s done the children can enlist a member of the family to take part in a fun, physical activity to demonstrate how robots are controlled. 

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The guidelines point out that robots can’t function on their own but require a strict set of instructions from a computer in order to function. The child’s task is to ask a parent or other family member to act as a robot then give them strict instructions on how to operate.

As long as it is a safe space for the activity, obstacles can be laid out for the “robot” to navigate round with the “controller” giving step-by-step instructions on how to navigate the course without touching the obstacles. 

Once the “robot” has completed the course, the roles can be swapped with the child playing the “robot” and the parent or other family member playing the “controller”.