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IBM Robo Challenge focusses on girls who STEM

This year will mark the 12th anniversary of IBM Robo Challenge, the annual competition which invites teams of children from as many as 12 London primary schools to take part in a series of competitive programming challenges using Lego NXT Robots.

The Robo Challenge is an annual collaboration between Education Development Trust’s technology hub, London Connected Learning Centre and IBM which tests childrens team-working, problem- solving, presentation and programming skills, as well encouraging creativity and enterprise.

Encouraging girls into STEM

The event will take place on March 30th at IBM’s headquarters on the London Southbank, but this year there’s a difference: all of the participating children will be girls. The reasons for introducing this new rule relate largely to the work London CLC been doing over the past few years around gender in technology and computing, for instance, their work on an Erasmus+ project with European partners from Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands and Finland (called ‘Co-think’) has placed inclusive practice at the front and centre of our focus, and has opened up international discussions around the best ways to get girls and other underrepresented groups more engaged in STEM.

Rowan Roberts, a consultant at London CLC who will be at the event: ‘For companies like IBM, getting more girls excited about technology is vital to the future of their industry. Right now only around 15% of the UK technology workforce is female, and this means that a huge amount of talent and potential is being lost due to cultural factors leading to fewer girls opting for such careers.’ She continues  ‘With our help, IBM hope to change this for the girls competing this year, who also serve as a shining example to their peers of what young women can achieve with technology.’

Celebrating an interest in computing

The day itself will consist of programming challenges such as: a race, which will put mechanical engineering skills to the test; a Robo-Ball, combining coding with costumery as they decorate their robot and program it to complete a dance routine; a surprise ‘X-Factor’ challenge during which pupil must use problem solving skills on the day to program their robot to complete a previously unseen maze. Children are also rewarded for skills like presentation and teamwork, with a particular focus on cooperation between the rival teams.

Rowan Roberts, continues: ‘It’s always a whirlwind of excitement, tension and concentration, but importantly it offers participants a fantastic opportunity to celebrate their interests in computing and go behind the scenes in a real technology company, making future careers in this area feel that much more accessible.’

About the IBM Robo Challenge

The Robo Challenge is a longstanding partnership between London Connected Learning Centre and IBM during which teams of children from as many as 12 London primary schools compete a series of competitive programming challenges to have fun, learn and win prizes.

For the latest news on this year's challenge, please visit the live blog page at https://ibmrobochallenge2019.wordpress.com/

To find out more about London Connected Learning Centre, please visit londonclc.org.uk, call 0207 720 7514 or follow @LdnCLC on Twitter.