School STEM Teams Use the IOE and BBC Micro:bit to Combat Childhood Obesity
Each year an educational version of the BIG awards*, “The Little BIG Awards” is also held, where secondary school children in Years 7 to 9 throughout the UK are encouraged to enter teams, with the aim of innovating a solution to everyday problems using the IOE.
This years teams were set the challenge of using a new micro computer developed by the BBC’s award winning R&D team, called the micro:bit. This computer can be programmed to use various I/O’s, has an inbuilt accelerometer, digital compass, onboard LED display and also features Bluetooth connectivity. All functions are coded by the students, using an application such as Microsoft Block Editor via an intuitive GUI.
Over 250 schools from across the UK took part in the competition, and regional finals were held to select the top 10 teams who would compete in a national final at Cisco’s UK HQ in Bedfont Lakes, Feltham.
I was delighted to be asked by STEMFirst to represent Cisco and act as Chief Judge and presenter for the North West regional finals, where ten schools pitched various ideas to us. These included an automatic pill dispenser to help dementia patients to remember to take their medication, and connected OCR pens to aid people with Dyslexia.
Each team spent five minutes presenting to us in front of their peers, and we marked them on various criteria, including use of technology, market research, business planning and financials.
After much deliberation, myself and the panel of judges selected @FulwoodAcademy as the overall winners. The team, made up of 6 boys and girls had developed a game called “Calorie Crusher” which aimed to combat childhood obesity by encouraging kids to become more active. This would be achieved by playing an exercise game on their phones. Data from the game would be securely uploaded to the cloud to enable health agencies to analyse the results and provide statistical analysis of child fitness at a national level.
The team had developed two prototype devices using the micro:bit, the first being a BMI calculator and the second being a Pedometer. Game players earn points and advance thru levels by increasing their mobility and lowering their BMI to within a healthy target range.
On the 9th March the Fulwood Academy team made the 200 mile trip from Preston in Lancashire to Cisco’s HQ in Feltham with their teachers, to compete in the national LBA final.
All the teams that had made it to the final had some very strong concepts. One similar idea to “Calorie Crusher” was from Team eVenture of Tiffin Girls School, who had come up with the idea of a connected trainer, which measured pronation of the foot, step count, and heart rate. The Tiffin Girls delivered an excellent presentation and the judges declared them overall winners of the LBA’s.
Fulwood Academy walked away with a separate award for “Best use of the BBC micro:bit” for their adaptation of technology, understanding of the IOE and quality of their prototypes.
Congratulations to all the teams who took part in this year’s Cisco Little BIG Awards, and thank you to all the STEM ambassadors and mentors who helped them throughout the project.
I hope you will encourage your local school to take part next year. More information can be found in the links below.
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