Amazon encourages next generation of techies with Cambridge LaunchPad

Year 12 students from colleges across Cambridgeshire attended the first Cambridge LaunchPad Scholars’ event of 2018. Students travelled to the Amazon Development Centre at One Station Square, where they were introduced to the coding language Python and learnt how to build an Alexa skill.

David Hardcastle, Senior Manager at Amazon, said:

“When opening our new Amazon Development Centre site in Cambridge, we were keen to ensure that this new investment not only created new jobs, but also provided new opportunities to help capture the minds of the next generation of scientists who live locally. That’s why we decided to work with Cambridge LaunchPad and to engage with schoolchildren so they can learn more about the exciting possibilities that STEM can offer. “

The teams came up with a diverse range of Alexa skills, which they tested on their Echo Dots, such as a language translator, riddle game and holiday planner. The two winning teams, who were selected for their outstanding teamwork, communication and problem-solving skills developed “Holidays!”, a skill which suggests seasonally-relevant holiday destinations, and “Weekly Planner”, a scheduling tool that manages professional, personal and social engagements.

David Jones, Head of Science from Long Road Sixth Form College, said:

“Cambridge LaunchPad is a great initative – I’m pleased that our students have to work together with students from other colleges, as it improves their teamwork and communication skills. It’s also fantastic that they have the opportunity to meet early-career employees from a diverse range of backgrounds with different expertise, as it can shape what our students might do in the future.“

Finn Sutcliffe, Year 12 student from Hills Road Sixth Form College, said:

“I’m really interested in STEM, and Cambridge LaunchPad looked like a great opportunity to work with some interesting companies. The project day has been really insightful – I’ve learned about the processes that tech companies go through to develop products and a little bit about what it’s like to work for such an innovative company. I would definitely recommend the programme to other students – it’s been such a good experience!”

The winning students will attend a prize trip that will take place in the summer, alongside sixth form students from other schools and colleges that are taking part in Cambridge LaunchPad. This programme encourages young people to consider STEM subjects and careers, and aims to address the gender imbalance in further education and industry. By introducing students to volunteers who are passionate about their careers and inspiring role models that break gender stereotypes, students can see that certain industries, like technology and engineering, can be accessible with a wide variety of job roles on offer.

Anna Aldred, STEM Outreach and Cambridge LaunchPad Project Manager from Form the Future CIC, said:

“The opportunity to engage with LaunchPad is so valuable in itself, but for students to be given the opportunity to work with technology that they may have in their houses, and with such a household name like Amazon makes the impact of LaunchPad so much greater. When a student is able to relate their learning to their everyday lives, it embeds the new knowledge and experiences to a much greater extent than when learning is presented out of context.”

Would you like your school or business to join Cambridge LaunchPad next academic year? Please get in touch with Anna at aaldred@formthefuture.org.uk to find out more.

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