Physical computing kits available for Code Clubs in England

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.

Bringing the ‘A-ha!’ moment to Code Club

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
This is what a Raspberry Pi Pico tray looks like

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:

Each project has step-by-step instructions to help young coders and educators to learn and develop their coding skills together! 

Raspberry Pi Picos bring Python code to life when connected to breadboards and other electrical components

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.”

Young people can build motorised buggies and bridges with the Crumble tray

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.” 

Bring the magic of physical computing into your Code Club and share your adventures with us on Twitter and Facebook

Go on a coding adventure with our NEW project paths!

To celebrate the new term, we’re bringing new coding discoveries to your Code Club. Find out how you can support your club members to become independent tech creators with our free educational project paths

Our new project path learning resources are structured so learners develop skills, knowledge, and increased independence as they progress through each path.  

Each path contains six projects. In the first three projects, known as ‘Explore’, new skills are introduced and learners are provided with step-by-step instructions to build their confidence. Next up are two ‘Design’ projects, to give children the opportunity to practise their new skills by creating their own personalised projects. The final ‘Invent’ project encourages coders to meet a project brief and decide how they want to develop their ideas using the toolbox of skills they’ve learned in previous projects. 

The project paths

Explore the project paths and choose one that suits your club this term. 

Introduction to Scratch: sprites, scripts, and loops
Club members find out how to add code, costumes, and sounds to sprites. They can make animations, games, apps, and books within this path.

Space Talk Scratch project

More Scratch: broadcast, decisions, and variables
To build on what they have learnt in the ‘Introduction to Scratch’ path, learners explore message broadcasting, if..then and if..then..else decisions, and variables.

Liz Smart, Learning Coordinator, shares why she’s enjoying the Grow a dragonfly project with her Code Club: 

“When club members realised the range of edits they could make to existing Scratch sounds, and how these could be used in their code, the club sessions got super creative! Every session since then has had an extra level of noise….and I love it!

An added bonus to this project was the amazing dragonfly facts that we all learned.”

Grow a Dragonfly Scratch project

Further Scratch: clones, my blocks, and Boolean logic
To take their Scratch learning a stage further, club members learn how to use Boolean logic, functions, clones, and more within their projects.

Introduction to Python: variables, functions, and loops
Coders are introduced to the text-based programming language Python. They code with variables, loops, and functions to create visual and interactive artwork, animations, simulations, games, and more.

Physical computing with Scratch and the Raspberry Pi
Bring physical computing into your club! This path guides you through how to use input and output electronics with Scratch and a Raspberry Pi computer.

Introduction to Unity: 3D objects, character controllers, colliders, text, and buttons
Help your coders take their first exciting steps in learning how to create 3D worlds and games with collectibles, timers, and non-player characters. These projects are brought to you with generous support from Unity Technologies.

Join us at an online workshop and discover how your Code Club can make 3D worlds with our NEW Unity project path!  

Unity 101: Setting up for success
Wednesday 2 February, 11:00 GMT / 6:00 EST / 16:30 IST

Unity 102: Creating 3D worlds
Wednesday 9 February, 13:00 GMT / 8:00 EST / 18:30 IST

Celebrating success 

Once club members have completed a path, celebrate their achievements by downloading one of our editable path certificates. 

If you’re based in the UK, the USA, India, or Ireland, head to your dashboard to download. If you’re based outside of these countries, visit our Code Club International website

Share your completed projects with the Code Club community on Twitter, using the hashtag #MyCodeClub.

Bring out the spirit of collaboration in your club with Delmar Code Club!

We took a virtual trip to Delaware, USA to catch up with Delmar Code Club and learn about their experience so far as a new club!

For Delmar Code Club’s co-leader, Daniel Rice, the impetus to start this club was his science education fellowship and a nudge from his professor to “do something”.

Mr. Rice’s answer to that “something” was to start a Code Club in October of last year. He partnered with co-leader Peter Burnham, the engineering teacher at their school, and together they envisioned what is now Delmar Code Club. 

Photo credit: Mr. Mark Connelly

Mr. Burnham firmly believes that “coding is the future” and even though he came to the club with very little coding experience, he felt that their club had “the right mix of people to get everything together”. 

That mix of people consists of seven students, all bringing their own unique skills to the club. Their names are Sam, Logan, Christine, Ben, Eagan, Julianna, and Jackson. We were very lucky to get the chance to hear from both Julianna and Jackson about their experiences alongside their club leaders. 

Julianna has been coding on her own since the 5th grade and shared that she had been looking for coding opportunities in school for a long time when she was encouraged to join Delmar Code Club.

Jackson, on the other hand, has been interested in engineering since the 6th grade. “In our high school, there was never really any kind of class geared towards engineering aside from Mr. Burnham’s class,” he said. “I was excited to hear that there was a Code Club coming up and wanted to try it out.” 

Kicking off the code with Python

To start, the Delmar Code Club met virtually and began working with programming languages like Python and the Turtle drawing library, which resulted in a snowflake designing contest where the students tried to beat Mr. Burnham.

“We had the community vote on which one they liked the most,” said Mr. Rice about the outcome of the contest. “All the kids actually beat Mr. Burnham.”

The club continued exploring other projects under the instruction of Mr. Rice and Mr. Burnham until one particular project prompted Jackson to ask his club leaders if they could take it to the next level. What started as them programming a game using Python’s Turtle library ended up becoming a fully functional arcade cabinet run by a Raspberry Pi computer that can play just about anything they wanted.

Collaboration at its finest!

This is where the true collaborative spirit of Delmar Code Club began to blossom. Some students, like Jackson, took to designing the build of the cabinet itself while others, like Julianna, focused on the code. Everyone had a skill to offer and was also willing to learn something new in order to complete this project. 

Photo credit: Mr. Mark Connelly

When he initially heard about Jackson’s plans, Mr. Burnham said, “I definitely thought it would’ve been too hard, but it really didn’t turn out to be as bad as I would have figured.” Mr. Rice agreed, and said that he was determined to keep an open mind and to never tell his students “no” when they brought their ideas to club sessions. 

“I was a little bit scared when Jackson said we could build this,” Mr. Rice said. “But with Mr. Burnham being a great builder and Julianna being a great coder and Jackson taking the reins, we got it done and I think we have a fantastic piece.” 

To celebrate the club’s achievement, they held a go-kart racing game competition that was open to the entire school, which was a huge hit.

Looking ahead with Delmar Code Club

The future of their club holds many exciting things: 3D printing, a robot derby, and even more game design. For a club that’s only in their first year, Delmar Code Club has accomplished so much, all while navigating the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic.

With such a small group being able to complete so much, it goes to show that anything is possible so long as you have what Mr. Burhham would describe as “kids who want to do the work”. 

If you’re thinking about starting a Code Club or even relaunching a paused club, know that even with the limits we’re all facing, you still can accomplish many exciting things. Mr. Rice’s advice? “Just keep going as far as you can!”

Visit our website today for more information on how you can get a Code Club started near you!