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  • Writer's pictureAyrshire Daily News

The future is now!

300 young people attended a special event at the William McIlvanney Campus recently, showcasing robotics, AI technology and STEM careers.

Hosted by James Hamilton Primary, Sgoil na Coille Nuaidh and Kilmarnock Academy, the event was attended by P6’s from Loanhead, Whatriggs and Onthank Primary Schools and supported by scientists from the National Robotarium in Edinburgh and the Council’s IT Service.

Olly, Finn, Perrie and Kaitlin from P6 at James Hamilton joined their Head Teacher Lorraine Dougan to welcome special guests Councillor Elaine Cowan, Spokesperson for Education, and Children and Young People; local members Councillors Graham Boyd and Neal Ingram, and Julie McKee from the Education Service, to the early transition event.

They explained that the P6’s from all the cluster schools would join into groups, so that they could get to know new friends, and attend eight workshops situated throughout Kilmarnock Academy.

Olly said: “This is a really busy week for our school. It is Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) Week and we are learning lots about careers and how we prepare for the world of work. We got to make ice cream as part of our DYW work, it was a bit runny but it was still delicious and everyone’s favourite flavour was toffee.”

The event got underway with a talk about STEM careers from Blair from the National Robotorium, a facility that has built a world-class reputation in advancing research in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). Blair also demonstrated two robots, one that looked like an animal and Pepper, the world’s first humanoid robot that can recognise faces and human emotions. Pepper was available at one workshop to either give a hug or a high five, which the P6’s thought was amazing.

The P6’s also got an opportunity to operate small robots, creating mazes for the robots to follow, to learn about aerodynamics and the world of drone technology, the importance of coding and to find out more about AI and Virtual Reality.

Councillor Elaine Cowan said: “This was an incredible experience for our young people and I can’t thank Blair and the team from the National Robotarium enough for taking the time out of their busy schedules to spend the day at the William McIlvanney Campus. I know that their goal is to engage with the next generation of robotics and AI engineers and from the fact that you could have heard a pin drop in the hall while he was talking, tells you that our young people were engaged and fascinated.

“Councillor Boyd, Councillor Ingram, Julie McKee and I were warmly welcomed to the school and were pleased to join in the workshops with the P6’s. The lesson on aerodynamics, which involved making our own paper aeroplanes, did get a little bit competitive but I think James and Kaleb from Onthank Primary managed to get their planes to fly just that bit further.

“When we were viewing, and participating, in each workshop it was clear that the young people had absolutely no fear of the technology. There are many situations in every day learning where a young person can be afraid or nervous to try something new in case they get it wrong, but not at this event. They were so engaged and keen to participate in every task.

“Finally I would like to thank Gary Neilson, ICT Co-ordinator and Rachel Smith, Primary Science and Sustainability Development Officer who both worked very hard ensuring the event was a huge success. They will be running a similar event at Grange Academy at the end of the month for the school’s cluster primary schools.”

Lorraine Dougan, Head Teacher of James Hamilton Primary and Sgoil na Coille Nuaidh, said: “Everyone at James Hamilton Primary and Sgoil na Coille Nuaidh were so pleased to welcome our friends from Loanhead, Onthank and Whatriggs Primaries to the Campus for a fun day of learning. This was the perfect opportunity for an early transition event for all our P6’s so that they can get used to learning together.

“It was also an incredible opportunity for our young people to learn from leaders within the robotics and AI world. It is our Developing the Young Workforce (DYW) week so we have been learning about careers that are available now and future career opportunities within developing technologies. To hear directly from the National Robotarium team really hits home the fact that for our young people, many of the jobs they will be doing don’t exist yet and that in ten years when they are joining the world of work, technology will have advanced significantly. The key is therefore to give them every opportunity to learn and develop transferable skills for their future workplace, whatever it looks like!”


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