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2015

Robots, Twitter and chocolate pizza help get Tayside pupils back on track

23 March 2015

25 pupils at risk of underachieving at schools in Angus have been supported to get back on track with their education through Prince’s Trust xl clubs.

With help from Abertay University and funding from musician and philanthropist will.i.am, the young people completed STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) projects at Prince’s Trust xl clubs at Arbroath High School, Monifieth High School and Webster’s High School.

Prince’s Trust xl clubs are run in schools to help underachieving young people gain the skills and confidence for a successful future.

An event was held at Abertay University today (Monday, March 23) to celebrate everything the pupils have achieved over the past five months.

At this event, the projects at each school were judged against each other and a winning team selected.

The projects were marked on areas such as project concept, as well as the personal skills the pupils have gained, and a team of judges deliberated over the decision.

It was a difficult task, as each of the projects were very different: Arbroath High School split into two teams to create robots using the Raspberry Pi; Monifieth High School created a Twitter account to promote physical activity and well-being; and Webster’s High School worked on developing a tasty new recipe from scratch, creating a chocolate pizza.

Monifieth High School were crowned the winners and awarded the prestigious Prince’s Trust xl clubs STEM Project trophy. They are in the process of organising a sport and healthy lifestyle day for all first year pupils at their school, which will round off the project.

Margaret Ford - Principal Teacher of Pupil Care and Support at Monifieth High School – added:

“What impressed me about the team was that initially they seemed to be eight separate people, separate entities, and in the past they probably would never have found themselves working together in any groups in school.

"What we’ve found is that they’ve gelled really well as a team and they’ve actually made friends as a team. Some team members lacked confidence in themselves but found confidence working with others.

"Who’d have thought that three to four months ago that we’d have a group of young people who could actually stand up and talk in front of 200 first year pupils as well as 12 members of staff. Today we’re particularly proud of them because they’ve actually stood there and presented to the judges without notes. They’ve really come on leaps and bounds and we’re very proud of them.”

Jennifer Smith, Outreach and STEM Co-ordinator at Abertay University explains what the projects involved:

“The projects the pupils have been working on have been quite diverse, but all equally challenging and equally successful.

“The team from Arbroath High School chose to work with the Raspberry Pi, which is a mini computer that can be coded from scratch to create all sorts of different devices. The pupils were set the challenge of designing and building a robot - any kind they wanted - and came up with two different ideas so decided to split up into two teams. The first team built a remote-controlled tank and the second team adapted a quadcopter, which is similar to a helicopter. Both were on show today, and the pupils gave demonstrations of how they work.

“Webster’s High School chose the challenge of developing a new recipe from scratch. They worked with staff from our food innovation department to come up with a concept, and decided they wanted to create a dessert pizza. They learnt about the science behind developing new recipes and the process of testing them, as well as what’s necessary to make new dishes look as enticing as possible – which included learning about food photography and packaging. Their final creation was a chocolate pizza, which they‘ve been selling in their school canteen, and there were also samples for everyone attending the celebration day to try!

“The Monifieth High School team, meanwhile, have been learning all about social media and how to use it for social good. They decided to set up a Twitter account to promote physical activity and wellbeing to their school community, and the wider world, and used it to post tips for how people could become more active. As well as harnessing the power of the hashtag, they also advertised the page on TVs around the school and on school noticeboards to try and get everyone to follow their exercise advice.

“All the teams had input from staff and students from Abertay, both with visits to the university and with us coming to the schools, but, on all the projects, our input has only been supervisory – all the hard work has been done by the pupils themselves, so today was a great opportunity to celebrate their achievements.”

Gillian Ross from The Prince’s Trust said:

“Although we picked an overall winner today, all of the pupils involved should feel extremely proud of their achievements over the past few months.

“Our remit was to get groups of disengaged young people in Angus working with universities on projects related to science, engineering, technology and maths to help boost their confidence, improve their self-esteem, and improve their behaviour, school attendance and attainment levels.

“We got in touch with Abertay to see if they would be able to help, and staff and students at the university came up with lots of different project ideas for us. The pupils then had to come to a team decision about which project they wanted to work on.

“The staff and students at Abertay were there to offer help and guidance, but the finished products were all created by the school pupils themselves. They’ve had real ownership of their work and should be extremely proud of themselves. I’m certain they have been inspired by what they’ve achieved and that they will go on to bigger and better things as a result of all their hard work.”

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E: k.cameron@abertay.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

Prince's Trust xl clubs provide a personal development programme for young people aged 13 - 19. These informal clubs support young people in developing the skills and confidence needed to progress into a positive future. The xl programme promotes a flexible approach, using relevant, experiential learning to support young people to achieve a range of personal and employability skills and gain qualifications.

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