By Orna Herr, Communications Officer (Education) at the British Science Association


Many of us may remember a time when supermarket checkouts weren’t disgruntled about unexpected items, Alexa and Siri were just names and the TV didn’t offer recommendations, but we’re now living in an exciting new era of machine learning.

Young people have grown up in this modern world and imagining the technological innovations they will spearhead is mind-boggling. Machines that work on algorithms – and which can therefore ‘learn’ from examples and experience – are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in our lives and this trend looks set to continue as extensive research on self-driving vehicles and other technologies is being carried out.

In light of this, the British Science Association has partnered with the Royal Society to develop Machines of the Future, a CREST Discovery Award resource designed to inspire young people to think about ethics around this kind of technology and how it could be utilised in the future, and to create their own household products that could use machine learning.

And inspire them it did!

As part of British Science Week, school students in the city of Stoke-on-Trent took part in Project Potterbot, a scheme run by STEM Day in a Box which involves distributing Potterbot kits that can be used in the classroom or at home to carry out STEM experiments. 2,000 Potterbot kits were sent out across the city, a move co-ordinated by Science Across the City. The kits contained all the information and equipment required for students to get to work on their machine learning inventions.

CREST Discovery Award resources are for school children aged 10-14 and can be downloaded for free and used as part of the school curriculum. They can also serve as a springboard for creative projects, an opportunity the children and teachers of Stoke-on-Trent embraced. All of their projects will be uploaded onto an online digital mosaic.

Professor Liz Barnes, co-chair of Stoke-on-Trent Opportunity Area, said: “Supporting young people to develop skills in science, technology, engineering and maths will help them unlock diverse and rewarding careers and play a crucial role in our future economic success.

“This fun project gives our young people a platform to showcase these skills, as well as their creativity and imagination to find innovative solutions for the challenges of today and the future as we build back better from the pandemic.”

For more information about the CREST Discovery Award activities and all the other CREST resources offering projects for children of all ages, contact us at [email protected] or check out the CREST resource library here.