A FREE online programme launched to educate and entertain young people during the first lockdown has been so successful it is still remains popular even though pupils are now back at school.
Created by CGI, the STEM from Home kits have had an “amazing” response from children, parents and educators – reaching more than 150,000 people across the world.
Hundreds of children have entered the competitions and completed the fun activities provided by the packs, which are all related to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.
There are now 24 packs on all areas of STEM, such as robotics and coding, and they can all be completed entirely from home by children aged from 6-14. The latest is the result of a collaboration with Smart DCC, one of CGI’s clients, and is designed to help children understand how homes are powered and how energy use can be reduced to help save the environment.
An activity pack based on the theme of smart homes and smart meters may sound a slightly dry topic but, like all the packs, it introduces the subject in a fun way and lets children understand how using items like their consoles has a financial and environmental cost.
CGI has involved other organisations and charities in the development of previous packs but this is the first official collaboration with a client. Three packs are planned with Smart DCC in total, with the first on smart homes going live a fortnight ago and the second on renewables expected early next month.
“The first pack has gone down really well and it is good to work with Smart DCC because they offer a different perspective and a bit more in depth detail behind the processes involved in smart home technology,” said content designer Luke Kittow of CGI.
CGI has been working with Smart DCC for a number of years now, principally on the technology behind smart meters, the small digital dials that track the energy use of a household.
“The main aim is to reduce energy use and help save the environment at the same time, and this is something that is really emphasised within the pack,” said Kittow. “It shows how you can make your home smarter by monitoring what you are using.”
As well as the packs being created with Smart DCC, there are others planned on sport and BAME topics.
CGI expects the collaborations to boost the reach of the packs further and engage an even wider audience. They are already used by schools on a regular basis.
“We have had really good feedback from councils, primary and secondary schools and it is great to see the programme continuing with our clients becoming involved,” Kittow said.
He said the response to the packs was far greater than he had ever imagined when they were first conceived as a way of easing the monotony experienced by children stuck at home when the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK.
“The response has been amazing and if anything the programme seems to have been given a new lease of life over the last few months even though life is going back to normal,” said Kittow.
STEM from Home was born from the Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) camps that CGI had been running before the lockdowns in UK schools and communities to encourage students to think about a STEM career.
When the first lockdown was announced, it was decided to try and recreate the camps online and, incredibly, CGI managed to have STEM from Home up and running within two days.
It was initially launched 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 week to keep kids engaged.
“Although we do community outreach this is on a completely different scale. The reach of it has been immense,” said Kittow.
Environment is a theme that comes up in the packs repeatedly and CGI is committed to achieving net zero by 2030 with respect to carbon emissions under its direct and indirect control.
DCC’s Chief Operating Officer, Penny Brown said: “If every household took action on energy efficiency today, we could achieve 11 per cent of the UK’s 2050 carbon target, and I can think of no better way than to mobilise the people that will benefit most from this action – our children.
“We worked with CGI to develop these educational packs to help children understand and get involved in the digital energy revolution today, in the hope that this work would inspire the next generation of green energy innovators. At the DCC we believe in making Britain more connected, so we can all lead smarter, greener lives.”
TASK – SMART HOMES
THE STEM from Home Smart Homes pack explains that what smart homes are, how a smart meter works and how homes are powered.
The pack points out to children that their homes may already be smarter than they think – as they may already have smart speakers like Alexa, Google or Siri who can tell them facts from the internet, what the weather is like, play music and can also turn off the lights and close the blinds.
Coffee can be brewed on an instruction from a smart phone and the house can be cleaned using robot vacuum cleaners.
In this pack children learn all about smart meters, how they work and the benefits of having them in the home.
In the activity section they are given examples of smart meter data and asked to find out how much money is saved by turning the lights off or how much is spent by watching TV.
The pack then asks them to think about the advantages and disadvantages of using electricity and to find out how solar, water and wind power work.
They are given a picture of a kitchen and asked if they can spot how the owner can reduce their energy use.
Children are also asked to design their own smart home and think about the technology they will use, how it will be powered, how they will dispose of waste and what security they might use.
Their designs can be hand-drawn, made as a model or designed virtually using software such as PowerPoint or Blender.
TASK – SMART CITIES
THE programme also includes a pack on Smart Cities which explains how they work and the technology used to improve services such as transport and waste collection.
They aim to reduce environmental impact and increase the quality of life for citizens and visitors.
Children learn how technology such as smart sensors around the city gather data in real time in order for the city “to understand” the behaviour and needs of its residents. The insights collected from the data are then communicated with organisations such as councils who use them to create solutions and improve operations.
The pack explains that car emissions are one of the biggest issues that cities face when trying to become more environmentally friendly.
The activity included in the pack is to create a poster to encourage people to walk or cycle to work or school, instead of driving.
Suggestions for the poster include listing the benefits of walking and cycling to the city and to the individual, such as cost savings, improving the environment as well as physical and mental health.
The poster can be created digitally using Raspberry Pi’s HTML/CSS Wanted activity or hand drawn.
Children are also asked to find out all the major advantages of Smart Cities, whether there are any drawbacks and if any exist already.
The technical activity in the pack is to create a simple house from a single block.
In order to do so, participants need a desktop or laptop computer capable of running Blender and will learn how to design basic 2D and 3D assets.