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HP 75th Anniversary School Computing Challenge

Contributed by Stephen Crane, HP Labs Bristol



HP storage expert Russell Monk guides the students in their work.


Last year a new computing syllabus was introduced in primary and secondary schools across England. As part of HP’s 75th anniversary celebration last year, HP Labs Bristol launched a computing challenge designed to help students and teachers develop their understanding of computing beyond the ‘desktop apps’ that feature strongly in the current Information and Communication Technology syllabus.


Our 75th Anniversary Challenge asked students to design and develop a computer-based solution to a problem of their choosing. The students were free to choose any topic but were encouraged to show a solution that integrates low-level electronics (lights, switches, sensors, etc.) with high-level Internet-based services that provide additional processing and supplementary data to enrich the solution.


The Challenge was targeted at secondary school children, ran for six weeks, and included an Introduction Day led by HP and a concluding ‘poster fair’ at which the children presented their solutions to HP employees and invited guests. In addition, a team of HP mentors were on hand throughout the six weeks to help the students develop their thinking and to assist with any technical challenges.


Students (13/14 year-olds) from Priory Community School in Western-super-Mare started the challenge in October. Their Introduction Day, which was held in Cabot, began with HP Labs communications manager Alison Taylor outlining the challenge, followed by a keynote from the Director of the Security and Cloud Lab Martin Sadler during which he motivated the students by outlining the amazing changes that will take place in computing over the coming decade and the opportunities that these changes will bring to younger generations. The remainder of the day involved the children learning about computers.


Using the Raspberry Pi, Senior Researcher Stephen Crane, with the support of a team of excellent and dedicated mentors, worked with the students in groups of two and three to provide step-by-step instruction and guidance on the construction of a Tweeting doorbell (someone presses your doorbell and a tweet arrives on your mobile phone). Given that most of the students had never programmed a Pi before, and new virtually nothing about the Pi’s Linux operating system, they made fantastic progress, and by the end of the session where comfortable with Linux, Python programming and wiring up switches and lights. Finally, Stuart Martin took the students on a tour of one of the new datacentres so they could appreciate large-scale computing in the workplace first-hand.


But this was just the start! Now the challenge begins for real as the students embark on their projects back at school. And we are already seeing early signs of exciting times ahead, with project titles such as CatPi, RadioPi, RaspberrySPi, CreepyGame, SlidePi, PiBreak and DoggiePi being promised. We’ll all be able to see the final project at the Poster Fair, which will take place on site this February.



HP Labs Bristol Senior Researcher Stephen Crane mentors students during the Challenge. 



Chris Phillips from the HP Software Preofessional Services team instructs the students during their project.

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