A Gateshead primary school’s drive to create a community science and technology hub has been given a major boost through the donation of a dozen laptops.


Independent tech consultancy Opencast, headquartered in Newcastle, donated the MacBooks to help Bill Quay Primary School raise the profile of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and to help refurbish an outbuilding known as ‘The STEM Shed.’


The MacBooks donation, facilitated by Tyneside business technology specialist CMYK, will also help the school compete in this year’s VEX World Robotics Championships, which will take place in Texas in the spring.


VEX Robotics is an international robot-building programme that provides pupils with exciting, robotics challenges that enhance STEM skills through hands-on, student-centred learning. Last year, Bill Quay pupils took part in numerous VEX competitions throughout the north east which led to them competing in the national finals in Telford and then the international finals in Dallas, Texas.


Under the guidance of key stage 2 teacher and STEM lead Gina Dye, the school’s VEX robotics team is hoping to do the same again in 2024. The team has already qualified for the national championships.


Gina said: “We’re thrilled to receive 12 MacBooks from Opencast and CMYK.  They will be well-utilised within school to enhance our provision in computing, technology, music technology and science learning, particularly in Key Stage 2 classes.

“As a school we are dedicated to developing and fostering our pupils’ enjoyment of the STEM subjects, and as part of our vision we plan to refurbish an out-building which was previously used as a dining centre.

“It is a lovely old building which is currently an under-utilised space which would make a perfect ‘community STEM hub.’ However, it does require a complete overhaul internally in order to make it a pleasant space for a class of children to learn in.

“Our aim is to provide a space where students, parents, teachers, and members of the community can come together, exchange knowledge, and participate in STEM-related projects. This shared learning environment will not only benefit our students but also make a positive impact on the community. The MacBooks will be used within this hub for coding, music technology and data-logging to name just a few uses for this fantastic resource.”


The school is working with local and regional businesses to help them deliver its ambitious ongoing STEM learning programme. CMYK is one of those companies – and CMYK also works on projects with Opencast.


CMYK regional sales director Craig Pratt said: “Gina and the robotics team work so hard and have outperformed much bigger skills and schools with bigger budgets. You can see the tangible benefits of Opencast’s laptops donation will make to the school’s teaching of STEM, and with the robotics team preparing for this year’s VEX championship.”


David Sarginson, Opencast head of software development and a STEM ambassador, said: “We’re delighted to have made this donation to Bill Quay Primary School. We hope the computers will inspire an interest in technology. We’re committed to doing what we can to boost STEM learning in schools through schools visits and donations like this.


“We also hope the donations will help with the VEX Robotics Championship – it’s this sort of innovative project that can inspire a life-long interest in technology – and even a career in the sector.”


Other organisations responding to the school’s request for help in renovating the ‘STEM Shed’ include the Reece Foundation.

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