BrightSparks: leveling the playing field

Awesome companies are sponsoring kids to allow them to get the MakerClub experience for free

Enjoy our latest BrightSparks clip

The Bigger Picture

BrightSparks is a scholarship program allowing us to provide amazing MakerClub experiences to kids from low-income families

Brightsparks gets to grips with the shortage of STEM volunteers recently highlighted in the NESTA ‘Building the Digital Talent Pipeline’ report. The project is a win/win opportunity for business and young people, providing staff with new teaching skills and giving young people top quality mentorship and equipment access in their local area. The programme places a 50/50 mix of boys and girls, creating better chances for women, always under-represented in STEM.

In large towns and cities, especially those with technology clusters, it can often seem that fringe communities are ignored in favour of the bustling and bright centres, which seemingly contain all the opportunity. BrightSparks provides a direct connection between disadvantaged communities and local digital companies often seen to be driving forward innovation.

BrightSparks starts a valuable conversation with digital employers about their responsibility to their communities and their own talent pipeline. Once a larger, respected company signs up in an area, we have found this encourages others to join showing wider support.

four children talking around a table
BrightSparks team coming up with ideas at MakerClub Brighton
yellow post it notes with text on cover the screen from edge to edge
At project launch, BrightSparks tech sponsors tell us what they are looking for in young talent
three children hold up a flip chart page with images and text on
BrightSparks makers present their ideas at our grand launch

We need your help

MakerClub’s BrightSparks programme gives technology companies across England the chance to make a sustained and life-changing difference to children from low-income families in their area, helping them discover bright young talent at the same time.

A lack of access to digital and maker tools, combined with reduced school and home provision, means children from low-income families have significantly less chances of entering into a STEM-related job. At the same time, 47% of digital companies say the education system isn’t meeting the needs of their business.

BrightSparks tackles these problems via an elegant and replicable solution across communities. MakerClub run weekly, membership-based invention clubs for ages 8 to 13 in maker spaces across the UK, giving children access to brilliant equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters, while teaching hands-on invention skills through regular project work that covers coding, design-thinking and electronics. All this is taught by awesome facilitators using our advanced MakerClub digital learning platform.

BrightSparks finds children with the potential to shine through local school ICT co-ordinators, then we connect these children to local digital companies, who pay for 12 months of weekly MakerClub membership. BrightSparks kids get free access to MakerClub membership, which is normally a paid-for activity.

The pilot project in Brighton started in March 2017 and now has 20 local digital companies involved, with 40 volunteers trained and 25 young people placed in weekly sessions. Once fully rolled out across the UK, this programme will inspire hundreds of talented digital staff to give their time and pass on their skills to the next generation.

What do kids get?

Young people aged between 8 and 13 years old on free school meals will be put forward by their ICT coordinator at school. They get:

  • 12 months of weekly tech mentorship (52 sessions)
  • All their materials paid for
  • Travel costs reimbursed
  • An introduction to local STEM companies and mentors
  • Career development advice and further training

Want to get involved?
We’re currently building BrightSparks networks in London; Birmingham; Bournemouth and Norwich. If you’re based in any of these places and you are keen to get involved, contact Declan Cassidy at declan@makerclub.org
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Benefits for companies

BrightSparks involvement provides staff in tech mentor companies – if they wish – with free DBS checks and basic teacher training so they can pass on their skills in MakerClub sessions. In addition, companies can set real-world design briefs the children can work on in club, providing further context for their work and a link to long-term vocational skills.

You’ll get:

  • National and local press and marketing push throughout the project
  • MakerClub team visit your company and update about project
  • Free training and DBS checks for staff who might help at weekly sessions
  • Regular news about your sponsored child’s progress
  • Plenty of amazing social media and blog copy you can use all year round!

Some of our sponsors

The Barclays Logo
The iCrossing Logo
gene logo of black on white letters
blue lettering on white background spelling Ribot
purple logo with white lettering spelling Madgex
Black text on white background spells Plus Accounting

 “If only I could have had this when I was younger”

Antony Ribot, Founder of Ribot