In our technology-driven world, we’re so used to getting everything that we want with a tap of a smart phone or the click of a mouse – but where do we go from here?
One Lincolnshire inventor has teamed up with onlincolnshire’s Horncastle Technology Hub to create a new piece of technology that is helping the next generation of computer scientists create programmes while still at primary school.
Having spent most of his working life in the ICT industry, entrepreneur Trevor Olsson from TS3 Training based in Horncastle spotted an untapped opportunity to create a new training device to help primary school teachers and young pupils understand computer science.
“With the curriculum changing in September 2014, every child in Key Stage 2 and 3 across the UK is now being taught how to code computer games and control ITC systems,” explained Trevor.
“This means teachers who have never had to understand computer systems before will now have to teach them to a classroom full of pupils.
“I first become aware of a problem when I visited a training workshop for teachers. They were being shown how to use devices called a Raspberry Pi and Breadboards.
“A Raspberry Pi is a little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing. It is capable of doing everything you’d expect from a desktop computer – from browsing the internet and playing videos to creating Word documents and playing games.
“In this workshop every teacher was being shown how to use the Raspberry Pi with a Breadboard, which is a small computing board with lots of holes in it that allows wires to be pushed in and out to create prototype circuits.
“Nearly everyone struggled with the task and had no idea how they would ever teach it to a class of young pupils.
“It was then that I had my Eureka moment, and I saw an opportunity to create a new device which was better suited to a primary school environment, and could be used to control a Raspberry Pi.
“I knew it had to be easy to use – for both teachers and pupils – and most importantly it had to be a lot more robust for those over-enthusiastic little hands! This is when I created the gPiO box.”
The gPiO box enables young children and their teachers to write computer programmes that make a light flash or a fan go around. But with the first prototype there were several design issues that Trevor knew needed ironing out.
The production process was taking too long, and Trevor was struggling to match the holes on the labels up with the holes on the aluminium plate on the front of the gPiO, to ensure important component wires could still pass easily though both. It was a difficult technical challenge.
“I’d already got to the stage of building a prototype gPiO Box”, continued Trevor. “In fact I’d managed to sell half a dozen to a school in Cambridge. But I knew there was an opportunity to develop it further. And that’s when I went along to the Horncastle Technology Hub.”
Working with Leo Scott-Smith, one of the technology hub advisors, Trevor explored the production process of his gPiO Box and the different ways of doing it.
Alongside running his own business as an architectural technician, Leo also has a passion for product development.
“Trevor came into the Technology Hub during one of our regular open days,” said Leo.
“After that we put a date in the diary and agreed to meet up to look at his product to see if there were any ways that we could support the development of it.
“We did some testing with the labels that he already had, and using the front plate as a template we scanned it and created an exact replica as a DXF file that could be easily cut on a label laser.
“This allowed the new label to incorporate the holes needed, in exactly the same position and not interfering with anything else on the box. The only alternative up to this point was manually cutting the holes to fit, which was time-consuming and poor quality.
“With the template on file, Michael Gill, head of printing at Morton’s Media Centre, suggested that Trevor get in contact with Cupit Print in Horncastle. Templates were made for the actual aluminium casing too. Trevor was put in touch with Tong Peal Engineering in Spilsby, whose advanced laser cutting machine offered accurately cut plates that are produced quickly and consistently, ensuring a high-quality finish while also helping to speed up production time.
“Having the Technology Hub based at Mortons gives it a real community feeling”, continued Leo. “And using the experience of all the different people based at the Technology Hub has proven invaluable to all the product development that we have done.
“Trevor, like so many others we have worked with, was surprised to find out that our support was on offer for free as part of the onlincolnshire funded project. In fact all the feedback we’ve had has been positive, with lots of people telling us that we have played a key role in their business growth.
“I apply innovation and design to all aspects of my work and I’m always looking for smarter ways to do things. And not only do I get to develop my own mind-set, but I get to help other people too.
“People come to the hub with basic products, and with the right support we turn them into premium products. It is nice to know that the Technology Hubs are making people’s journeys a little bit easier.”
As well as the technical support, people can also take advantage of 12-hour free one-to-one business coaching through the onlincolnshire project. This can range from product development to business planning or marketing and PR. It’s the whole package.
For more information about onlincolnshire and the Technology Hubs in Lincoln, Horncastle, Louth, Mablethorpe and Boston please visit www.onlincolnshire.org
For more information about gPiO please visit www.gPiO.co.uk
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