IBM Robo Challenge

A partnership with IBM inspiring girls through working with industry on programming challenges

What did we do?

The IBM Robo Challenge, formerly the IBM Junior Developer Challenge, invites teams of children from local primary schools to compete in a series of programming challenges.

In 2019 our commitment to improving gender equality in computing saw us pioneer our first girls-only Challenge. Teams of KS2 girls from 12 schools were given a Lego NXT kit, an IBM mentor and 10 weeks to prepare for a series of exciting challenges such as programming their robot to complete a dance routine, taking part in a race and designing and programming their own game on Scratch. It culminated in a day at IBM on London’s South Bank where all the teams competed to see which would come out on top, with mentors and family members cheering them on.

What difference does it make?

Research has shown that employer engagement at primary school level has a positive impact on attainment and developing the interpersonal skills needed in the 21st-century workplace. 

In 2018 100% of pupils who took part in our IBM Junior Developer Challenge said they had learnt something new from the project, often highlighting personal and social development as well as STEM-related skills: “I have learnt how to programme a robot and work as a team,” said one pupil.

“The IBM/CLC programme has demonstrated the genuine value of a partnership between a business and an educational organisation, where there are strong mutual needs and thus great benefits to be gained.” Mark Wakefield, corporate citizenship manager, IBM UK

“It’s been massive to come here and see the IBM building and all these people that work here. The girls have lots of questions already about the kind of jobs there are here. They are in London, at IBM and taking part in this big competition. The volunteers coming into the school have been really good at talking to the girls about how the activities relate to real life and explaining how they use the same sort of problem-solving in their jobs. The volunteer gave them real-life examples of coding.” Teacher

“The competition is great for encouraging the children to think about jobs in technology. Having the support from Afeefa and Howard from IBM helped give the children an insight about what it is like to work in technology. Visiting the IBM building was also very inspiring.” Teacher Katie Bell from Crown Lane Primary

“The amount of teamwork, perseverance, collaboration, problem solving and creativity needed was almost more important than the programming skills they developed.  They all got so much from being part of the project, and having the final day at IBM was really inspiring for them all.” Teacher, Ruth Grimwood from Crown Lane Primary

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