Potterbot (or not) – in celebration of science

Pupils tasked with making a Potterbot (or not) in celebration of science

Schoolchildren across Stoke-on-Trent are being tasked with the design and construction of an innovative machine as part of British Science Week.

The initiative, which involves the distribution of 2,000 Potterbot kits to 70 schools across the City, is being coordinated by Science Across the City with funding support from Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area.

British Science Week is a celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths that takes place between March 5 – 14, coinciding with the return to school of thousands of pupils across the City.

Tina Whittaker from Science Across the City, explained: “The activity is designed for years 5 – 8 to make them feel excited about science and our fast-changing world. We’ve chosen learning machines as the theme as they effect all our lives now and in the future.

“We want young people thinking about things like Alexa and Netflix serving up personal recommendations based on our likes and whether learning machines could have helped even more throughout the pandemic, maybe a future of self-drive ambulances taking people to hospital and reducing transmission risk? Whilst many people might think of a stereotypical robot, learning machines don’t have to have arms, legs and a head.”

The challenge part of the activity encourages children to create a product that uses a learning machine using either recyclable household items or supplied ‘Potterbot’ kits and uploading images of their finished creations to a central website where it will form part of a city-wide digital mosaic.

Pupils, their teachers and parents are also encouraged to share images of their constructions on social media using the hashtags #Potterbotornot and #bsw21.

Tina added: “We had a great response from schools signing up because they want some joy during lockdown and my advice to schools is that this makes a fantastic celebratory way to return to the classroom.”

“What we want everybody to feel is that they’re part of a something bigger – a collective classroom that spans our City – and it would be wonderful to get Stoke-on-Trent school pupils trending with their fantastic creations during British Science Week.”

Following on from British Science Week, schools are being asked to return the Potterbot kits which can be gifted to local families through Foodbanks as part of the Great Science Share for Schools which will be happening in June.

Professor Liz Barnes CBE DL, co-chair of Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area, said: “Supporting young people to develop skills in science, technology, engineering and maths will help them unlock diverse and rewarding careers and play a crucial role in our future economic success.

“This fun project gives our young people a platform to showcase these skills, as well as their creativity and imagination to find innovative solutions for the challenges of today and into the future as we build back better from the pandemic.”

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