“Coding with Cows” at Ireland’s first ever Computer Science Week National Conference

VistaMilk SFI Research Centre will join the PDST (Professional Development Service for Teachers) and the Department of Education at the inaugural Computer Science Week National Conference, Athlone Springs Hotel on the 13th of October.

Students, teachers, school leaders and representatives from all areas of the education sector will be in attendance to promote and learn about computer science across the continuum of learning.

Helen Van Eesbeck, Post Primary STEM Team Leader, PDST said: “We are delighted to be organising this conference as part of Ireland’s first-ever Computer Science Week which we are coordinating with the support of the Department of Education.

The aim of the week is to promote computer science to the general public and make schools aware of the wide range of supports that are available to them from industry and the PDST should they choose to add this fantastic new subject to their school curriculum. Computer science is a subject that is suitable for all students and has applications in most aspects of today’s modern world, not least the agriculture sector.”

With this aim in mind, VistaMilk is joining the event by proposing “Coding with Cows”, an educational program designed and developed by PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. Coding with Cows is an interactive resource that provides participating primary school students with skills to handle activity data from cattle using a coding software. As part of the process, they develop their own coding skills and get output information on the activity of the cows during the day, health status and reproductive events.

In this way, the children improve their knowledge of coding but also of cattle farming systems in Ireland. Students can also understand how coding can be used to improve the working life of a farmer by informing him in real time what the cows are doing and when something is wrong. Teachers can thus use the Coding with Cows game to educate their students in coding and livestock systems in an innovative, fun and interactive way.

Helen is convinced of the relevance of the Coding with Cows program regarding the objectives of the PDST:  “Our aim is to provide new and innovative learning opportunities that will improve the skills and teaching capabilities of our members. VistaMilk’s Coding with Cows is definitely one such program that fits this criterion and we are delighted that we are able to feature their involvement at the conference.

Designed and developed by PhD students and post-doctoral researchers, some just a few years out of secondary school themselves, we believe that it will resonate with teachers as it is a fun way to introduce students to coding and computer science. “

Lucile Riaboff, VistaMilk Postdoctoral Researcher, UCD who imagined and led Coding with Cows said: “This educational program was designed to inform the next generation of computer scientists about the impact and importance that coding has in our daily lives. As agricultural and computer scientists, we use activity data collected from cattle neck-collars to get information on daily activity, health and reproductive status of cows using Artificial Intelligence.

We thus thought it would be great fun for children to simulate the process used in our research to follow a day in the life of characters like Gus the Aberdeen Angus, Hefin the Hereford, Hallie the Holstein Friesian or Josie the Jersey cow using a coding software specially designed for a young audience. “

“Agriculture industry is being revolutionised through the use of computer science with robotic milking machines, grass imaging technology, automatic drafting systems and the use of drones and GPS for precision farming. With Coding with Cows, participants develop an understanding and acquire skills that are used in agriculture, but that can be applied across many industries.”

Coding with Cows is a free resource. Teachers can avail of training in the use of the program or can organise for VistaMilk representatives to attend their schools.  Visit https://www.vistamilk.ie/educational-resources/ for more information.

More information on Computer Science week can be found on the @PDSTcs twitter account using the #csweek hashtag or by email to computerscienceweek@pdst.ie.