Portobello High School Careers Convention

Author: Fiona Reid
Posted: 6 Mar 2015 | 09:36

Last week Mario Antoioletti and myself attended the Portobello High School Careers Convention representing EPCC as part of STEMNET. Portobello was my old high school so I was quite keen to go back and see what had changed in the 20+ years since I was last in the assembly hall. 

The convention was an opportunity for pupils from S2 (12-13 year olds), S4 (14-15 year olds), S5 (15-16 year olds) and S6 (final year students at 16-17 years old) to explore possible career options with over 30 different businesses, colleges and universities being present. For the pupils from S2, S4 and S5 this event takes place prior to them making their course choices for the next academic year and thus is particularly timely. 

The convention day was split into two sessions, both taking place in a hall with a rather magnificent mural painted by the students themselves (see below). The afternoon session provided an opportunity for pupils from each year group in turn to visit the stands. The evening session was for parents and carers but a number of pupils also attended this. For both sessions people were free to visit whichever stands caught their interest. 

We took along the Cray XT4 motherboard, part of the decommissioned HECToR service, along with a poster showing the history of EPCC supercomputers. We had between 30-40 visitors to the EPCC stand, mostly from boys already studying computing or intending to do so. 

These events are always interesting, not only from the perspective of the information that we can pass to the student but also from what we can learn from them. For instance, all the pupils at Portobello High have been issued with iPads. They use these to supplement their learning experience while they remain in the high school. We talked to one of the teachers and some of the pupils who looked on these in a positive manner but it was still early days to quantitatively determine the impact. It was also interesting that the pupils were taught programming starting off with scratch, then moving on to kodu and finishing with code academy.

At an event such as this the pupils will come to your stall, so you only tend to see a self-selecting group who are already interested in computing or who may be enticed through curiosity to find out more about the XT4 board. It was sad to note that not a single girl visited our stand. We were told that there were girls interested in computing but not one of these visited our stall. We are not altogether sure for the reasons for this but it would be good to know why so that we can improve on this. We did actually have one girl coming over who told us her friend would be really interested in what we had on show but on being asked if her friend was here we were informed that she went to another school.