Ocado reveals new initiatives to get students interested in computer science and engineering

Ocado Technology is announcing AI:MMO, a new educational platform designed to empower secondary school students in the UK and worldwide to study algorithm design and smart optimization strategies while playing a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game. AI:MMO is part of Code for Life, a non-profit initiative that delivers free, open source games and teaching materials that help students learn computing.

As the world’s largest online-only supermarket and a leading technology company, Ocado understands the importance of cultivating the next generation of computer scientists. Just like its division of 1,200 technology experts has been developing innovative software and systems that revolutionise the way people shop online, Code for Life is equipping students with the skills they need to understand, influence and drive forward the industries of tomorrow.

The rapidly growing demand for specialist computer science and engineering-related skills is reflected in recent research published by EngineeringUK*. According to the study published in March 2018, the big data and AI-related sector is forecast to contribute £241 billion to UK GDP by 2020 and create 157,000 new jobs. In addition, annual demand for people with “core engineering skills” stands at 124,000 a year, with an additional 79,000 workers needed each year in related roles. Based on the current supply of talent coming through the education pipeline, the annual shortfall is up to 59,000 technologists and engineers per year.

In order to help educators get students interested in computer science, AI:MMO includes free and comprehensive teaching resources targeted at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 students. The resources are aligned to the England, Wales and Northern Ireland Computing Curriculum launched in 2013 and have been developed in collaboration with experienced secondary computing teachers from the UK.

Committed to inspiring the next generation of software engineers, Ocado Technology employees have volunteered more than 1000 hours to the creation of the AI:MMO game.

Based on the many complex challenges Ocado Technology faces on a daily basis, the game will introduce students to modern coding principles used for AI-based applications while helping teachers meet the requirements of the new curriculum. Students will also learn team collaboration skills and form a solid foundation of coding in Python, the widely-used programming language for software engineering.

“Artificial intelligence is a transformative technology that has the potential to completely reshape entire industries. As such, substantially more needs to be done to achieve a paradigm shift in the quality and quantity of STEM students, graduates and professionals over the long-term,” said Paul Clarke, Ocado CTO. “We also need to prepare the next generation for living in a world populated by smart machines, digital assistants and robots. Coding and data literacy are therefore becoming essential skills not just for those who may go on to become computer scientists but for everyone. With Code for Life, we are making modern coding techniques accessible to hundreds of thousands of students in the UK and worldwide while giving teachers free and easy to use tools to weave digital literacy into the educational curriculum.”

“Developing a workforce that is ready for the pace of digital change that is happening today requires a clear commitment from businesses in this industry to do all we can to encourage more young people to pursue a career in technology,” said Andrew Lawson, Executive Vice President and General Manager, UK at Salesforce. “The Code for Life programme’s gamified learning platform is the sort of creative learning opportunities that we need to bring to today’s youth to nurture their passion for technology. Supporting online learning and new models of education, like Code for Life, is at the heart of Salesforce’s core values. We see it as key to bringing new and diverse talent into the technology industry.”

“Ocado coming to our school for game testing gave the opportunity for students to see something real built from the ground up and get them excited about working in software engineering and games development. In addition to that, my students are very excited to use the product as AI is a huge interest for students today,” said Livia Santos, high school computer science teacher at the American School in London.

If you’re a secondary school teacher or a computer science enthusiast, pre-register athttps://www.codeforlife.education/teach/ to get information and access the free resource from September 1st, 2018.

A new Go4SET hub for Hertfordshire and Year of Engineering

As part of the Year of Engineering initiative, the Ocado Foundation and Ocado Engineering have partnered with the Engineering Development Trust (EDT) to create a Go4SET hub in Hertfordshire, with a focus to engage students from local schools in a real-world engineering project. During the two month programme, students aged 12-14 will design an environmentally-friendly factory which uses new and sustainable ways to create the energy it needs to run.

The students will work in groups with an industry mentor to research, test and develop solutions to the challenge, before presenting a report, displaying a model and giving a presentation at a regional final event. Winning students from the hub go on to represent their region at the national final.

The Go4SET scheme offers students a real insight into STEM subjects, environmental challenges, industry and academia and encourages smart school subject choices at a critical path.

Says Suzanne Westlake, head of corporate responsibility and corporate affairs at Ocado, “Getting school children excited about STEM subjects is a key part of our strategy to improve digital literacy for the next generation. Every one of these children has the potential to become an Ocado employee, we’re delighted to help upskill them through initiatives like Go4SET and our newest Code for Life resource for schools, AI:MMO.”

Says Julie Feest, CEO of EDT, the charity that runs Go4SET and many other business and education linking programmes, “Our role at EDT is to seek to inspire young people into careers involving technology, engineering and science. We therefore seek to partner with employers who understand just how vital it is to work with schools and colleges to produce future recruits who are ready for the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Ocado have marked themselves out as leaders in this visionary role and I am sure we will find many other ways to continue to work together for the good of UK industry.”

For more information, please visit https://ocadoengineering.com/the-year-of-engineering/

*Note: Data taken from Engineering UK: The State of Engineering, the flagship EngineeringUK research publication which includes a detailed statistical analysis of essential information about the engineering industry.

About the Ocado Foundation

The Ocado Foundation was established in April 2015 with the aim of helping Ocado employees and customers make a difference across the UK. We choose projects and charities where our input will be the most valuable and our impact the greatest. Our charitable initiatives cover the environment, education and entrepreneurship, and eating well.

About Code for Life

The Code for Life initiative has been created by Ocado Technology to get every child coding. As the world’s largest online-only supermarket, Ocado understands the importance of cultivating the next generation of computer scientists. Just as Ocado’s technology has revolutionized the way people buy groceries, Code for Life will help equip pupils with the skills needed to revolutionize the industries of tomorrow. For more information about Code for Life, visit http://codeforlife.education

About Ocado

Established in 2000, Ocado is a UK-based company admitted to trading on the London Stock Exchange (OCDO), and is the world’s largest dedicated online grocery retailer, operating its own grocery and general merchandise retail businesses under the Ocado.com and other specialist shop banners. For more information about the Ocado Group, visit www.ocadogroup.com

george smith