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Raspberry Pi innovations unveiled by British youngsters

This article was first published in E&T magazine

Projects from schools across the UK were on display at the finals of
this year’s PA Consulting coding challenge

A system that uses a Raspberry Pi device to reduce the frustration of long waiting times at temporary traffic lights was among the winners of a coding competition for schools announced at an event in London.

The annual contest, organised by PA Consulting, challenges primary, secondary and college students from across the UK to design products using the Raspberry Pi microcomputer. Entrants for the 2019 competition’s four categories had to think innovatively about how they could transform experiences of travel and transport.

The traffic light controller designed by ‘Team Lightning’ year 12 and 13 students from Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn in Carmarthenshire (pictured above) calculates optimum cycle timings based on distances, speed limits and car types. It can be used at permanent junctions as well as at roadworks and incorporates a web interface that allows an engineer to change the variables remotely.

First place in the Year 4-6 category for primary schools went to St Mary’s School, Horsham, for a ‘Park and Stride’ invention that uses technology to encourage children and parents to walk to school instead of parking outside the school gates. Children can ‘scan in’ with an RFID keyring tag at drop-off points away from school before walking and scanning in again when they safely arrive on site.

With interest in the competition reflected by the massive increase in entries for 2018, the previous prize for secondary school years 7-10 was split into two. At the younger end, academic years 7-9, Lady Eleanor Holles School from London came out on top with their Brainy Baby Belt, a product that as well as making childrens’ car seats safer by issuing an alert when they become unclipped also plays music and has lights to help keep the child entertained during a journey.

For years 10-11, the winners were from Westminster School, London, who impressed the judges with a product that allows cyclists to navigate safely around busy urban areas by displaying route directions and other data on a pair of cycling gloves that light up to show arrows or other actions. The bright light coming from the gloves has the added benefit of making the cyclist more visible and safer in the dark, especially when they signal a turn. The gloves also provide a real-time display of the pollution the cyclist is experiencing, using air-qualty data from the cloud.

Finalists contending for the £1,000 prize in each category enjoyed a day of STEM activities and networking sessions with business leaders, as well as putting their projects on display.

Joining Tomorrow’s World presenter and STEM advocate Maggie Philbin to present the prizes, Anita Chandraker - who leads the global innovation services at PA Consulting - commented on how inspiring it was to see children as young as eight from different corners of the country getting involved in coding with such passion and ingenuity.

“We believe young minds hold potentially life-changing ideas. One school who competed in a previous PA Raspberry Pi competition went on to turn its idea for a wearable air-quality monitor into thousands of sales after teaming up with a manufacturer,” she said.

“As a firm, we are passionate about technology and our aim for the competition is to highlight the importance of technology and coding skills and their role in supporting our future economy.”

Contact the innovation team


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