Retro computer roadshow bringing IT skills to NI schools

Retro computer roadshow bringing IT skills to NI schools

Pupils are tackling old technology as a countdown roadshow makes its way across Northern Ireland.

The learners wasted 8-bit computers, video games and early examples of the cell phone.

The Code Show aims to educate students and encourage them to consider a career within the IT industry.

There is a shortage of IT skills in Northern Ireland and relatively low numbers of girls study computing.

This is down to cultural stereotypes.

Gareth O’Hare from Wellington College in Belfast is behind the proposal to introduce the road show to Northern Ireland.

“I want to bring this around the schools to give that little spark, I want children to find that spark, that interest that could make them choose a career in IT,” he said.

The Code Show was originally conceived by Gary McNab, who has over 20 years of experience in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries.

Speaking about his motivation for launching The Code Show, he said: “While delivering the computing curriculum in a local primary school, I recognized that the National Curriculum makes no reference to how Britain entered the computer age.

“With over 300 machines and my passion, I believe I can offer schools an affordable and alternative experience in their own setting, providing a day of learning and hands-on experience for the whole school.”

Free vintage computer,

The Atari 2600 dominated the games industry during the 1980s

The traveling technology museum is expected to visit 10 different schools in a fortnight and Mr O’Hare says it has been well received at its first location.

“The students were just as excited as we were; we noticed the expressions on their faces when they came into the hall. They just wanted to experience everything.”

The primitive nature of the technology made the students very interested but they could understand how advanced it once was.

For most, the world’s first electric car – Sinclair C5 – was a show stopper.

Year Nine student Jason Allen played the 1980s classic Manic Miner and was surprised by how much he enjoyed it.

“It’s fun, hard, not like most games I’ve played. The graphics are what I expected, I really enjoyed it and would play it again.

“It does not seem fundamental because the code behind it was great for its time. The fact that this has been done [at the time it was] it’s a big shock to me.”

The Code Show at Wellington College

The Code Show made its first visit to Northern Ireland last week and traveled to 10 different schools

Explaining the IT skills shortage, Mr McNab says it is often a male-dominated industry and surveys have found that women’s participation lags far behind.

“The missing element is the number of girls choosing to do IT subjects at GCSE and A level,” he said.

To combat this, his college runs girls’ coding clubs, and has introduced programs during Key Stage Three to help develop students’ understanding and interest in the subject from a younger age.

“Coders are always in demand, but like medicine, IT has a wide and varied range of expertise.

“Cyber ​​security is a hugely growing sector and threat. There is a huge growing career sector in this part of the industry and I know one success from this.”

Female students using a vintage computer

The traveling exhibition is intended to encourage students to pursue a career in IT

One such success story is Sophie Kane who has just left college to undertake a software and computer systems development apprenticeship.

“I was never really interested in Information Technology, coding started and I found it difficult,” she said.

“It was only when I was introduced to the visual applications through gaming, Xboxes, Playstations… it triggered something.

“You see it’s math and text. Anything you want, you can make a game if you have those skills.

“A lot of women don’t usually go to him.”

Commodore computer

One of the pieces of technology on display was the classic Commodore

Speaking of the curriculum change over the years, Mr O’Hare said: “Six or seven years ago, interest in the curriculum in Computer Science started to rise.

“[This event] reminding students that the growing IT industry in Northern Ireland is not a job, it’s a career, it pays better than most.

“It’s a career for life and by hiring female role models, it could help increase the number of girls in Computing.”

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