High March School


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Exploring the world of computer programming and AI


Our Year 6 girlswere full of anticipation as they drove up to the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley just before half term, wide-eyed as the coach moved past high fences and people with clipboards and high-vis jackets to arrive at our destination. Security was high in advance of the first Worldwide Artificial Intelligence Safety Summit, which is currently taking place.

During the day, the girls were invited to consider the impact of AI on robotics, and to identify the difficulties in programming self-driving vehicles. In a potentially life-threatening car crash situation, should the vehicles’ algorithms prioritise the safety of the old or young? Humans or animals? Our cat and dog-loving Year 6s found this difficult, and developed an appreciation for the ethical difficulties of programming and AI.

The sheer size of the world’s first computers (we saw Colossus – the world’s first programmable digital computer) and the complicated way in which calculations used to be solved (slide rules and huge old calculators) was a marvel to a generation used to pocket-sized technology.

The girls also loved getting ‘hands-on’ with the Enigma machine (famously employed by the Nazis in WWII). Year 6 used this, together with Morse Code and code-breaker wheels to solve puzzles and problems. They also enjoyed the lighter side of technology, exploring computer games in the Museum from the 1980s (PacMan and Chuckie Egg), and Virtual Reality headsets. These were a real hit with the girls, who had to work together to decrypt symbols and ‘cut’ different-coloured wires before virtual bombs exploded.

Our team were so proud of the girls, whose impeccable behaviour, curiosity and problem-solving skills really impressed our guides at the museum.

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