A wee bit Xtra in your digital tank?
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A wee bit Xtra in your digital tank?

A wee bit Xtra in your digital tank?

Posted on 12th February 2018

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For those of you old enough (probably not many) Esso’s “put a tiger in your tank” was one of the most famous advertising campaigns of the 1960s and 70s. At that time, many boys would have fancied becoming a racing driver or an engineer with one of the big car companies.

girl, VR, graphicFast forward to the current century and IT, engineering and STEM subjects generally don’t employ just boys any more. That said, as we have written about here, seemingly ad nauseam, there is a well-known problem in attracting girls into STEM generally and IT particularly. One of the key issues is clearly attracting young people into our digital and engineering industries, from school onwards.

We first wrote about Digital Xtra Fund back in October 2016. Then, it was publicly funded and in its infancy, but now (as of March 2017) it’s a full blown independent charity*, still working to fulfill its original purpose which is to  “inspire the next generation to understand and create with technology, not just consume it, and understand the range of careers these skills will provide“ and  “to ensure every young person in Scotland has access to a digitally creative activity regardless of gender, background, or where they live."

To that end, Digital Xtra Fund provides grants for extracurricular computing activities the length and breadth of Scotland.  As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader of this blog, this is something that we at Be-IT care deeply about.  Without the seed corn coming through our education system we shall, quite simply and indeed brutally, be left behind as the world continues its remorseless drive down the digital road. By supporting extracurricular computing activities outside the traditional education system, the Fund can cut through red tape and quickly focus activities in areas often excluded through lack of resources and/or target specific audiences such as girls and young women. By supporting activities for young people who are often unfortunately excluded, the Fund will help broaden Scotland’s talent pipeline.   

Their most recent funding round elicited 53 applications, asking for £225K of money.  In the event, 11 of these applications were successful, with £50K being disbursed to some amazing projects across the country and thus helping to introduce some 3,200 young people to high-level computing skills.

And to return to the motoring theme with which I begun, one of these projects, by Inveralmond Community School, focuses on the F1 in Schools STEM Challenge in which, as explained on the Digital Xtra Fund blog, “Pupils aged 11-18 work as part of a team to design their own model Formula 1 car, utilising 3D modelling, testing and simulation packages, then operating rapid prototyping equipment to turn their digital concept into a physical model, which they will then race against teams around the country in the hope of making it to the UK finals, followed by the 2018 World Finals held in September.” 

With Formula 1 now turning its back on some of its previous old-fashioned attitudes to women (notably the recent decision to stop having “grid girls”), there has, I hope, never been a better time to interest youngsters (of both sexes) in a career in digital, IT and engineering. The work that Digital Xtra Fund is doing in this field will not solve all the problems, but it’s a start and something that Be-IT wholeheartedly supports.

Gareth Biggerstaff, CEO, Be-IT

Posted in News, STEM

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