Guest post from Code Club: Raspberry Pi factory visit

Liz: Do you remember those snippets of film from factories they used to show on educational kids’ shows when we were little? I have a very lucid memory of an episode of Playschool which (via the arched window) took you through the making of a rubber glove, and another segment featuring the manufacture of chocolate biscuits. 

The manufacturing process is fascinating for us grownups. It’s even better if you’re a kid. So Code Club took a group of kids from Saint Saviour’s School in Paddington, London to the Pi factory in South Wales. Here’s how they got on. Thanks to Nick Corston for this post, which you’ll also find at http://sscodeclub.blogspot.co.uk/.

To do our bit for National Science Week we took a trip to the Sony factory in South Wales where they make the Raspberry Pi computers – in fact they make 18,000 a week. A real success story for British manufacturing.We met at Paddington and, not to waste a school day, got stuck straight into a Code Club lesson using the programming language Scratch.

Thanks to Clare and Linda at Code Club HQ for lending us a a pile of netbooks with Scratch on them. We had enough for half the group –  – so while they were waiting the other half got stuck into some worksheets to prepare them for the visit.

We were delighted when a passenger getting off the train, said how perfectly well behaved the children were, which, while not the be all and end all, made us very proud of them as they’d had lots of fun on the journey but also worked very hard.

We had a quick change of train at Cardiff station, before getting a much smaller train to Pencoed, where taxis were waiting to take us to the factory (if you ever do the trip, don;t even consider walking the short distance as the dual carriageway is UNCROSSABLE and dangerous).
 Then we were at the Sony factory, a massive building in the countryside where Sony used to make televisions. Now they make the best TV cameras in the world as well as Raspberry PI’s and servicing Sony electronics devices from TVs to PlayStations, PSPs and camcorders providing much needing employment for the local community.
 We then had a briefing all about Sony and the Raspberry Pi sat round the Sony Director’s board table.

Before entering the factory we had to put on special shoes that make sure that any static electricity in us went to the ground and not into any thing we touched, as it can damage the sensitive electronics in the factory.

 We saw the Raspberry Pi production all the way through the process. We learned how the circuit boards are coated in solder and saw then the tiny pin head size components put on the boards really quickly by a robot arm.
Some parts still have to be put on by hand and there is a line of ladies who do that job.
 The boards then pass on to a solder bath on a conveyor belt where these components are fixed in place.

Here one of the groups poses for a photo with Mr Corston who organised the trip and was helped on the day by Ms Bennett and Mr Lee.

A real bonus of the day was a visit to a company called Wales Interactive, who Sony are helping by letting them use some of their office space. They are a games development company and we saw how they create games for the PlayStation and iPhones and Android devices. They had some great free and paid for apps – we think Ms Woodford might particularly like their cat and dog calculator app!
Dave Banner who runs the company showed us how they create illustrations that get turned into computer graphics to go into the games.
A really interesting aspect of this was the role of coding and computer programming in creating games. We saw the software they use, which uses flow charts a bit like Scratch to bring the games to life. We saw how important maths is to create the equations and physics formulas to make the games as realistic as possible. Dave said they only consider employees who have worked really hard at school and been to university.
Finally on the way home the children completed a quiz sheet based on what they had learned on the day and six lucky winners got a Code Club t-shirt as a souvenir of the day.
Thanks to all the children for being so well behaved, their parents for letting them come. Mr Corston, Ms Bennett and Mr Lee for their help and Sony TEC Pencoed for their amazing hospitality. Code Club for loaning us a bunch of netbooks with Scratch on and the prize t-shirts.
More photos in a slideshow here and watch this space for exciting news re a movie of the day.