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Staff member Glafkos teaches kids at King’s how to code

29.07.16 Categories: Patient stories, Supporter stories

Star fundraiser Glafkos Havariyoun is a King’s staff member who has been teaching children in the hospital school how to code. Using revolutionary credit card-sized computers, patients at King's College Hospital use coding to control a robotic arm.

Glafkos started working at King’s in 2013 as a trainee clinical scientist in medical physics. He’s at the end of his three-year training period, and he now has a job as a clinical scientist in radiation protection and nuclear medicine within the department of Medical Engineering and Physics (MEP).

I’m a scientist, get me out of here

He took part in a competition called ‘I’m a scientist, get me out of here’ which involved speaking about his work to schoolchildren online. The children cast their vote for their favourite scientist.  

Glafkos won the competition and donated his £500 prize money to buy Raspberry Pi and robotic arms for children at the hospital school.

Raspberry Pi are a series of motherboards the size of a credit card.  They perform the same operations as a home computer, and have USB ports to plug in a mouse or keyboard. They are especially aimed at teaching coding to children.

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Teaching children to code

Glafkos says, ‘The school is very proactive in taking on more projects to teach children about coding and science in general, and they had already just started a coding programme. They said my idea would fit very well.

‘I did a number of sessions with the children for about an hour a day. I taught them what a Raspberry Pi is, and what coding is. Then they started coding with the robotic arm and moving things around, which was really good. I think they were all very interested.’

Glafkos with some of his pupils

The hospital school helps children to keep on top of their studies during their stay in hospital.

‘Many paediatric patients stay in hospital for a very long time, and they need to try new things. Learning to code with this equipment is really stimulating for them.’

Glafkos is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) ambassador with training in talking to children about these topics.

He says, ‘I teach physics and maths so I try to make it relevant to everyday life, rather than it being something they need to memorise and never actually use. I try to bring the topics alive and apply them.

Inspiring the next generation

When you use day-to-day applications and examples of science, kids find it a lot more interesting, especially in the field of healthcare. Modern medicine is becoming more science-orientated and we need to inspire future generations to get involved.’

The school is going to keep the Raspberry Pi for others to use, and hopefully repeat the same sessions at the school next year – great news!

‘I would gladly do this all over again,’ says Glafkos. ‘I learned a lot more from the patients than they learned from me. It’s amazing how, even though not in the best situation, they don’t seem to care, and have this ability to put everything aside in order to learn.

'I hope with this project I have been able to make their experience here at KCH ever so slightly better, and helped them to learn new things at the same time!

‘I’d like to thank the school for supporting the programme and my department for giving me the time to do this. And last but not least, I'd like to thank the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) and the Institute of Physics (IOP) for funding the Medical Physics Zone of the I’m a Scientist Get Me Out of Here.’

Spreading the word about fundraising

Glafkos is a Charity Champion, which means he is the first point of contact in his department about fundraising. He also spreads the word to colleagues and patients about how they can support King’s.

‘We don’t get a lot of patient interaction in radiation protection, but nuclear medicine patients do show interest in fundraising. Especially when I wear my badge, people ask me about how to fundraise.’

‘Many of my colleagues don’t know that they can fundraise, so taking part in things like Get Colourful day and being a Charity Champion is really helpful.’

Get Colourful is our annual dress up fundraising day for staff in the hospital. Staff can wear colourful clothes and wigs in exchange for a donation to King’s.

Glafkos has fundraised for King’s before by holding annual football tournaments for King's College Hospital, King's College London and King's Health Partners staff members.

In his first year, they supported the helipad at King’s, then the Liver Institute, and the next one will aim to fundraise for the paediatric wards and the school. His enthusiasm for the hospital really shines through.

‘I absolutely love King’s,’ Glafkos says. ‘That’s why I applied for a job here!’

If you would like to fundraise for paediatrics at King’s, please contact us on info@supportkings.org.uk. 

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