Last week, representatives from element14 attended one of the initial Training Day events for the Premier Farnell Technology Challenge, organised in collaboration with Leeds Beckett University and Ahead Partnership.


Students from several participating schools joined us at the Grade II listed James Graham Building at Leeds Beckett University's Headingley Campus. The day began with an introductory session in which the teams were assigned group numbers and received an overview of what the challenge would entail.


After this there was a 'Coding Bootcamp' led by Dr. Bal Singh, Senior Lecturer in the Leeds Beckett School of Computing, Creative Technologies and Engineering. Dr. Singh explained the key features and functionalities of the Raspberry Pi Zero, which the students would be using as the basis of their design. Key areas covered included the basics of creating a Python script, how to use GPIO pins and incorporating external components such as buttons and LEDs.


After this there was an ideas session led by Ahead Partnership, in which students were given additional context for the piece of assistive technology they will be creating. The groups were shown footage of real people living with physical and sensory impairments and how existing technology has helped to improve their quality of life.


In their respective groups, the students were then encouraged to think about some key questions:


  • Who is the technology designed for?
  • What problem does it solve?
  • What senses does the technology engage (sight, smell, touch etc.) and why?


The session sparked some interesting discussions among the students and helped many of the groups to start to refine their ideas about the kind of prototype they want to design.


The highlight of the day was a focus group run by VINE, a specialist education course for young adults with complex needs. Students met two individuals who are living with complex needs, along with their carers, who provided an insight into the day to day challenges and experiences they encounter. After the initial talk, there was a Q&A session with the carers, offering plenty of food for thought for the group. By the end of the session it was clear that some exciting ideas were starting to formulate.


The day concluded with a guided tour of the Leeds Beckett University campus, offering a first-hand look at what it's like to study at University level, with access to the advanced technology and facilities that go with it. With many of the visiting students coming from local schools, this was a valuable preview of what they might expect if they apply to Leeds Beckett University in the future.


Now fully debriefed and visibly inspired, the departing students were provided with their Raspberry Pi and sensor kit to take home and begin the creative process in earnest. We can't wait to see what they come up with...


{gallery} Premier Farnell Technology Challenge: Training Day