From making your first LED blink to creating a musical instrument, physical computing can bring the ‘A-ha!’ moment into your Code Club.
If your Code Club is running within a school in England, you can hire a selection of physical computing kits from an NCCE Computing Hub for free.
Physical computing helps club members to build connections between the real world and programming. By designing, programming, and making their own creations, young people get the opportunity to learn about microcontroller boards, LEDs, inputs and outputs, and so much more!
The kits are designed so that you can get started straight away. No experience is necessary as you’ll have access to:
- The Teach Computing guide to physical computing kits
- Step-by-step projects
- Our online FutureLearn courses
What are the kits?
The physical computing kits are available from the 34 NCCE Computing Hubs located at secondary schools across England. The kits are split into trays by type of device, and each tray is suitable for teachers to get started with physical computing at different key stages:
- Crumble trays – aimed at key stage 2
- Micro:bit trays – aimed at key stages 2 and 3
- Raspberry Pi Pico trays – aimed at key stage 4
- Raspberry Pi 3B+ trays – aimed at key stage 4
How can I borrow a kit to use at my Code Club?
If you’re a teacher in England, you can visit the NCCE Hubs webpage to find your local Hub, then contact them to find out what’s available to borrow. Each computing kit is generally available to use for up six weeks at a time.
If you’re a volunteer, you can still access the free Teach Computing Curriculum to use in your club.
I’ve hired a kit. How do I get started?
The Teacher Guide to physical computing kits provides a detailed explanation of all of the equipment and components included in the kits. It also has information about free teaching resources and training.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently launched two fantastic new project paths that your Code Club could explore with the Raspberry Pi 3B+ and Raspberry Pi Pico trays:
- Physical computing with Scratch and the Raspberry Pi
- Introduction to the Raspberry Pi Pico: LEDs, buzzers, switches, and dials
Each project has step-by-step instructions to help young coders and educators to learn and develop their coding skills together!
How have the kits been used?
More than two hundred trays have been loaned out since September 2021. Over 90% of teachers who have borrowed them say that they have used lessons and units from the Teach Computing Curriculum to teach with the physical computing kits, some during class time and others at after-school clubs, like Code Club.
Ian Cartwright, a teacher from Belvedere Academy, a girls’ secondary school in Toxteth, Liverpool, borrowed a tray of Raspberry Pi Picos to use at his lunchtime club with a small group of 11- to 12-year-old students. Ian started with five students and that quickly went up to a group of ten when they started telling their friends about making the LEDs flash. Ian said,
“[It’s] massively more engaging than programming Python on a screen — walking into a room with the box of kit grabs their attention straight away. They love the idea of building something physical, like a car. When the lights flash they ask whether they can take their phones out (but they’re not allowed to) so that they can show their mum and dad when they get home.”
Year 5 and 6 students from Purford Green Primary Academy in Harlow, Essex, told us about how they used Crumbles to make buggies drive around tables and control bridges to make them go up and down. When asked how using Crumbles compared with other computing activities, such as using Scratch, one student said,
“I liked the Crumbles because it helped me develop my block coding and make my bridge move. I couldn’t do that on Scratch.”