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Hosting Firm Shares Piece of the Pi With Local School

Article date: Tue, 25 Aug 2015 15:27 GMT


Cloud hosting firm UKFast has joined forces with The Dean Trust to launch a Raspberry Pi Cafe, bringing hands-on tech and computer science education to Broadoak School in Partington, Greater Manchester.

The centre gives students the opportunity to work with professionals from the Manchester-based internet firm and learn how the computers can be used in interesting ways - like transforming an old analogue radio into a digital one, or creating their own arcade style games.

The Raspberry Pi Cafe aims to help educate and inspire the next generation of tech superstars, showing them the workings of the tiny Raspberry Pi computers and making technology education relevant to everyday life.

The innovative equipment can be used to assemble a desktop computer for just a third of the cost of traditional IT hardware.

The cafe will also be open for use by the local community, providing adults with access to basic skills training, and children with a safe space to work after-school on a secure internet connection.

Tarun Kapur CBE, Chief Executive of The Dean Trust, said: "One of the things that we think inspires children is seeing applications that can do something in real life. Looking at the Raspberry Pi, the range of applications is huge and for the students to be inspired by demonstrations from professionals who are excited by the technology, it really engages them in a different way to the normal classroom environment.

"We're really pleased to be working alongside UKFast and we feel these projects will capture the imagination of our children. School is often more relevant when you are learning from people who are working with the applications in real life, and when they are as enthusiastic as the team at UKFast it's a great combination. We want to provide a dual route for these children; both vocational and academic."

Mike Ward, Group IT Manager of The Dean Trust, who project managed the Pi Café installation in conjunction with UKFast, said: "The launch of the Pi Cafe has been a team effort, with the students of Broadoak School at the heart of the project. We hope that the new Pi Cafe will be used both as part of curriculum development for Broadoak students, but also by the wider Partington Community, technology groups and after-school clubs."

Education has been a high priority for UKFast in recent years; its campus office on the edge of Manchester's Technology Park plays host to a dedicated teaching facility and cutting edge lab for training and development. The firm also runs an award-winning apprenticeship programme and has an ongoing relationship with 10% of schools in Greater Manchester.

UKFast CEO, Lawrence Jones MBE, said: "We need to run initiatives like this to engage the country's next generation of computer experts. The interest is there and so is the talent; we just need to make the connection between the devices which these young people are already engaged with and enjoy using, and the opportunity they have to get paid for experimenting with them.

"Traditional education can let some kids down. We need to give young people the opportunity to get their hands dirty with new technology to unearth their creative talents as an alternative to sitting in a classroom environment.

"We know the level of poverty in some areas of Greater Manchester, but there is no reason - given the right opportunities and encouragement - that kids from these areas can't be the tech entrepreneurs of the future. When we're putting the latest kit straight into their hands to experiment with, we feel they have a better chance."

Having already committed £4.5m to training and development as a company, UKFast has ongoing plans for educational schemes across the UK. These include continued work with the Dean Trust as well as further Raspberry Pi projects to engage and inspire the next wave of tech talent and combat the UK's digital skills gap.

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