Red Hat, the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, has announced its collaboration with Lord Wandsworth College (LWC), an independent school for girls and boys aged 11 to 18, and the University of Surrey, a public research university specialising in science, engineering, medicine and business, on the Open Schools Coding Competition, designed to inspire the next generation of coders and software developers. In so doing, the competition hopes to contribute to building the UK’s digital talent pool.
The competition is now in its second year, with 10 schools and approximately 100 students in the UK taking part. The competition aims to engage children ahead of making their subject choices for GCSE, so is open to Key Stage 3 students. It challenges teams of students to use any free visual programming environment to create a gaming app that will help a charity of their choice. The competition enables participants to apply the basic principles of open source software development and open collaboration to solve a real world problem in a fun and competitive environment, with the opportunity to win a prize for their team and recognition for their school. In choosing a charitable cause, each student can gain a sense of how they can use digital skills to make their own contribution to addressing societal challenges and how open source technology and methodology can drive positive change in the world.
The competition concludes in a grand final at the University of Surrey, where the teams demonstrate their apps. As well as receiving feedback from the Red Hat judges, who are experienced software programmers, the teams exchange techniques and ideas with each other and talk about how they overcame any problems. Additionally, the teams benefit from hearing from recent Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) graduates, who are currently on Red Hat’s graduate programme in the UK.
There is a growing need in the UK for digital skills and efforts to close this gap can start from when children are in school. In 2017 there were 2.1 million UK jobs in the digital tech economy, according to the 2018 Tech Nation Report. An estimated 1.2 million more people with specialist digital skills are needed by 2022 according to the UK government, yet access to talent is a top challenge for doing business as identified by 55% of communities surveyed by Tech Nation. Through the competition, Red Hat, Lord Wandsworth College and University of Surrey hope to emphasise the opportunities and enjoyment children can gain from STEM, help them understand how open collaboration can help solve problems faster and contextualise classroom learning by developing apps for the real world supported by industry experts and academics.
The Open Schools Coding Competition embodies Red Hat’s commitment to educating and empowering the next generation of open source leaders; other initiatives include CO.LAB, presented by Open Source Stories.