For anyone in the education technology community, January is synonymous with Bett. This trade show has been taking place in London for over thirty years, and now sees over thirty thousand educators, students, parents and technology enthusiasts descending on the ExCeL Centre in Docklands to find out about the latest learning technlogies.
Raspberry Pi and Code Club have been represented at the show before, but for the first time we had our own area together in the new ‘STEAM village’ section of the show. Although the name may suggest a return to Victorian age technology, this area was about promoting the crossover subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. We took over a whole side of this village, with a dedicated workshop area and table stations showcasing many of our programmes.
Our area was packed, with back-to-back workshops every thirty minutes that often had standing room only. We ran sessions on everything from how to start a Code Club in your school, to how to get started programming a Sense HAT and using the GPIO. Hundreds of people took part in a half-hour workshop, and a few keen ones stayed most of the day! Almost half of those at the Code Club workshops planned to start their own club after taking part.
It was amazing to have members of the Raspberry Pi community join us to lead workshops, including Raspberry Pi Certified Educators, Raspberry Pi Creative Technologist Andrew Mulholland, and European Digital Girl of the Year Yasmin Bey.
Thanks to Alan O’Donohoe, Stephen Manson, Cat Lamin, Mike Trebilcock, Graham Bowman, Andre Mullholland, Neil and Toby Bizzell, and Sam Aaron for running workshops for us.
Raspberry Pi Foundation and Code Club staff were also presenting all over the show on computing and digital making. Carrie Anne Philbin presented on how teachers are changing the gender narrative in computer science and on digital making across the UK.
A highlight of the show for me was seeing Sam Aaron showing the power of Sonic Pi in the main arena. Working entirely from a Raspberry Pi with an IQ Audio Pi-DAC+ HAT, Sam rocked the several hundred people in the arena with both his music and his message: that programming is a new form of creative expression.
Throughout the show we talked to thousands of enthusiastic educators and learners. Staff on the Code Club stand alone had in-depth conversations with over 1500 people on starting clubs in their communities. I really enjoyed hearing from so many people who came to the stand to chat about the projects they had made themselves or with their students. I snapped a few of them with my own PiZero powered RetroPiCam project, and got talking to many more about their plans to start Code Clubs in their schools.
We also talked to a lot of people looking to get started with Raspberry Pis. Luckily for them we had thousands of copies of both Carrie Anne Philbin’s book Adventures in Raspberry Pi and a special educators’ edition of The MagPi, both full of ideas for learning and teaching with a Pi. As with all editions of The MagPi, you can get your hands on a free PDF here if you missed out at the show.
Saturday saw the first ever Raspberry Jam at Bett, organised by Ben Nuttall. The Pi community took over one of the learning theatres, bringing line-following robots, pirate ships, and a whole host of other creative Pi projects. Many members of the Pi community from across the country came to meet up, and passers-by at the show joined in too.
I’ve been visiting Bett for years. I’m used to the busy aisles and the enthusiasm of educators about the world of technology, but I was still blown away by the numbers of people who came to see us and the strength of their enthusiasm for Raspberry Pi and Code Club.
What’s great about this show is that most of the people you speak to work directly with children or young people. The enthusiasm we saw will translate into many opportunities for them to learn about computing and digital making.