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This weekend I was lucky enough to fly out to Skopje, Macadonia with Madlab and the British Council to take part in PlayUK, a showcase of gaming technology and the Living Room of the Future, an example of what broadcast media could be. The Living Room if the future is a collaboration between BBC R&D, FACT, The British Council, Lancaster University, the University of Nottingham, Data-box, and the Arts and Humanities research council. More details about the Living Room of the future project can be found here.

My role was to deliver a workshop on the BBC Microbit, a small open source computer designed to help young people learn to code. The British Council have been using these throughout the world to help spread STEM skills to young people.

I flew out Thursday via Istanbul arriving in SkopJe in the evening were I was met by a representative of the British Council who drove myself and two others to the hotel where we were staying. Friday for the most part consisted of setting up the exhibitions featuring games and VR experiences including Dan Hett’s the loss levels which tells the story of the powerlessness he felt after the loss of his brother Martyn in the 2017 Manchester Arena Bombing.

My workshop on the Friday was with a group of children about 14 years of age who attended local schools, luckily for my sake the majority of the children all spoke English amazingly well, and helped me translate the more technical bits of the workshop for the kids whose English wasn’t to strong and even helped me learn a few words.

We started off learning what the Microbit is and how it came about before working through a series of exercises that introduced buttons, sensors, and radio transmission.
The final exercise was to build a control system using a network of microbits to operate a dumb robot… that robot was me and the children had to use the skills they had gained to guide me through a maze of obstacles, after several crashes and much hilarity we got their in the end.

The following day I met with some Macedonian Microbit trainers who would be working with local teachers using Microbits to teach IT in their schools. We discussed different methods of using the Microbits in school and how they can be used in other lessons as well as just IT. We looked at some of the accessories available from places like Pimoroni and how discussed how these could be used to create lesson plans on a wide range of topics.

The whole experience was fascinating from start to finish and an amazing experience which hopefully I’ll be able to repeat again in the future. I managed to get a few hours off on Saturday afternoon and was able to explore the old bazaar which seemed to go on for miles and sold everything you could imagine, I even found one stall that sold nothing but bearings of various sizes.

You can see more of my trip on my flickr account which you will find here.

 

 

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