The University of Southampton

Interactive A-Level classroom tech kits will inspire thousands of students about electronics

Published: 1 August 2018

Dozens of A-Level Computer Science and Physics teachers have been trained on two interactive circuit boards from the University of Southampton that could help inspire the next generation of electronics engineers.

Over 70 teachers attended expanded professional development workshops at Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) in July, where they were introduced to new hands-on activities that join efforts to address a skills shortage in the electronics sector.

Southampton experts have developed Music Mixer and Logic and Arithmetic circuit boards that will be introduced to thousands of A-Level Computer Science and Physics pupils in the new academic year.

Dr Alex Weddell, Teachers Workshop Leader, said: “This year’s events have been tremendously successful, meaning that our kits will shortly be in the hands of over 100 schools around the UK. The classroom kits have a real legacy: they can be used in several classes every year. Rather than using stuffy kit in grey boxes, they expose A-level students to real electronic circuits and systems.

“It’s great to see that the feedback about the kits and the training, held in our own teaching labs, has been so positive. We are looking to run similar events next summer and to get the kits into the hands of even more schools. I’d like to encourage teachers, or organisations that would like to support the scheme as it goes forward, to register their interest by joining our mailing list.”

The circuit boards have been developed in partnership with the UK Electronics Skills Foundation (UKESF), with a successful pilot over the past year prompting dozens of classroom sets to be distributed to connected schools.

Stew Edmondson, UKESF CEO, said: “This project, which aims to provide schools with resources to teach electronics as part of the A-Level curriculum, is proving to be a tremendous success. With initial funding from The IET and now with generous support from the ERA Foundation and some of our partner companies, it has grown significantly this year. The feedback from teachers has been excellent and we are delighted with its effectiveness in promoting electronics.”

The music mixer circuit board combines audio signals to allow students to experiment with different electronic components. The Logic and Arithmetic kit incorporates core electronics concepts, in particular covering aspects of Boolean operations, logic gates and base 2 (binary) number systems. The two kits are not currently available to purchase, but limited numbers are being provided to schools for free.

Professor Bashir Al-Hashimi, Dean of Engineering and Physics Sciences, added: “School teachers have a vital role to play in encouraging more young people into science and engineering careers and the annual ECS Teachers Workshops aim to train hundreds of A-level Physics and Computer Science teachers in the coming years from across the country. We are delighted to host them within our state-of-the-art laboratories, working alongside our academic and technical staff.”

Teachers, or organisations that would like to support the scheme as it goes forward, can register their interest in the project by joining the Outreach Kits Mailing List.

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