technology
29902 Immerse Education 2019 App Competition

Congratulations to the winner of the Immerse Education 2019 App Competition!

Léo Wújì Yangkai Procházka submitted his design for an app called YouMesh which was inspired by the need for secure, reliable communication in environments where this may not be readily available.

“The purpose of my app (YouMesh) is to aid in situations where normal means of communications and access to updates and news aren’t available or aren’t favourable. The app is supposed to make use of mesh networking, which doesn’t have a central, essential point that could potentially bring the entire network down. The app would provide a means of communication, which could be private and secure, or more open in chatrooms or groups and also the transmission and display of other information.””The target market for my app (YouMesh) is primarily temporary establishments/facilities, such as refugee camps, emergency shelters, or other types of camps (educational, humanitarian, first aid). These kind of facilities are likely to have lower cell coverage, especially in the case of natural disasters, and yet many mobile phones, making the use of YouMesh a choice to consider. However, YouMesh should also be able to be adapted for use in permanent facilities, such as offices, schools, hospitals, etc. The more permanent facilities have (usually) a large amount of mobile phone users, expanding the network range. Some of said facilities do have wireless networks installed, however, as mentioned before, these rely on central points which are essential to the system and could bring it entirely down if part of the hardware would fail. Overall, the target market is facilities that have a larger amount of people which are not too far apart and do have mobile phones, which could benefit from this system.””Most mesh networking competitors only offer the basic functions- texting, image sharing, and some file sharing. The main feature of my app is that You ‘create’ your own Mesh app, which created the name YouMesh. The app is supposed to be able to be modified, adapted, personalised for each network, posing the choice to enable pre-defined features such as updates (timetables, calendars, news, info), a welcome/home page, sharing of specific file types, normal messaging, private & secure messaging (requiring a key), group messaging, open messaging (to everyone), and firewalls (against viruses). The app also has more specific settings, such as who may join the network, how they join the network, or specific operating times. These features are supposed to be modified and adapted to the situation and then be applied to all other devices when joining the network. Some networks can also have limited wiring included, say, between different parts of facilities which are already too much a distance away from each other to provide a high enough bandwidth. The wiring would end at wireless hotspots, which would join the network, but not be entirely necessary for the network to operate.”

Categories: Articles Tags: , , | Comments 29311 Women and Tech: A Progress Check in 5 Statistics

Gender balance in technology has been a prevalent concern for at least the past two decades. Demand for skilled jobs in technology industries is far outstripping supply as technology continues to dominate business investment around the world. It’s no wonder we’re short of specialist knowledge if women are pursuing careers in other industries. The noise from last week’s International Women’s Day has already begun to fade and we have to ask how much progress have we actually made in promoting gender equality within technology? Here are some statistics that try to shed some light on the matter.

Only 0.4% of female students are choosing to study Computer Science at A-level.

This statistic is designed to shock. It shows that as young women are approaching their futures, very few are deciding to develop the skills that would typically be associated with careers in technology. However, as the tech industry continues to evolve and adapt to the increasing rate of development, it’s becoming clear that formal qualifications are not a prerequisite for a career in this field.

Tim Cook has recently pointed out that 50% of employees at Apple don’t have a degree. The skills required for success in a field that is built on innovation and creativity are not necessarily learnt by studying the traditional route of a degree. So all is not lost for our young women who are turning away from a formal education in tech skills at this relatively early stage.

Furthermore, this is not a trend that is representative of STEM as a whole. In 2017, 52.8% of the UK A-level Chemistry cohort were girls this is part of a steady increase in the number of women studying sciences at A-level over the past decade.

Amazon have created a £130,000 bursary to support the careers of female tech students in the UK.

The sentiment behind this is to be applauded – Amazon intends to support up to 24 young women as they step into tech. But Doug Gurr’s (Amazon UK Managing Director) commitment to the cause is left somewhat in questions when you compare the size of the bursary to the $11.2 billion of profit that Amazon made last year. Nevertheless, the announcement of this funding comes in the footsteps of other initiatives designed to support women in tech, but also women in leadership positions within the industry.

Such initiatives include: The Sky Women in Tech Scholars, The Teen Tech Awards, The Women in Innovation Awards and many more beside. The scale of Amazon’s financial commitment to the cause may seem anti-climactic, however the reputational backing of household brands such as this will no a great deal to raise the profile of the campaign. These are positive steps to try to balance out the gender difference in this field, but the need for them highlights that we are a long way from having equal opportunity in the industry.

5% of leadership positions in the tech industry are held by women.

This is not just an issue in tech but is a trend noted in high-level jobs across all sectors around the globe. In the UK, a recent review prompted the Investment Association to write to 69 companies calling on them to increase the proportion of women in their boardrooms to 33%. Of those contacted, 66 companies currently have just one woman on their board of directors. Public reviews into gender equality, the pay gap and the employment practices of businesses are increasingly being brought into the spotlight with positive examples of real change being implemented. For example, the BBC has pledged to close its gender pay gap by 2020.

The rate of growth in the tech industry continued to increase and the skills required to innovate and succeed are being more and more specialist. For the small number of women who are already established in tech, the industry provides a strong opportunity to become thought leaders and to lead in one of the most creative industries we have. The future for young women looks a little brighter, with continued work and commitment from businesses, the future generation, male and female, can expect to encounter greater opportunities to develop their skill set and be remunerated accordingly.

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Our efforts to promote gender equality must be consistent

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In 2018, 9% of female students graduated in a core STEM subject.

This seems negative, but it is up from 8% in 2017 so it’s a step in the right direction. By 2022 we will need 500,000 workers for high-skill digital jobs which is treble the number of Computer Science graduates from the past decade. So, while gender equality is at the heart of the current drive to increase the number of women in tech, it is driven by a very real and pressing need. One approach may be to increase the pathways to a tech career. As already mentioned, many of those currently working in the tech industry do not hold a degree.

Internships, apprenticeships and other vocational pathways present the opportunity to gain real world experience and develop practical skills while also exploring the opportunities that the industry presents. The problem of access is exacerbated by the way job opportunities in the sector are marketed towards women. Employers have been working to avoid gender bias in their job adverts but even the technology used to then promote these job opportunities is responding to data that favours men. Automations are set to find the most cost effective target for marketing. Based on historic trends, the cheapest people to market jobs to are men which means they receive greater exposure to the range of jobs available in STEM industries.

A great deal of research is being presented on this issue at present which companies, in turn, will respond to. We, the bystanders who pass judgement from our sofas, should trust that businesses recognise the benefits of diversity within their workforce and will take positive action to meet their own need for technical expertise by increasing access and support for women. If not, we should be prepared to be active in creating the change we want to see.

Only 3% of female A-level students said that a career in tech was their first choice.

This point supersedes all previous points. We can have all the funding in the world for women to achieve their full potential in STEM industries. We could have hundreds of initiatives to support women in computer science roles. Ultimately it comes down to whether women are attracted to a career in technology. At present, we are not. In order to generate this shift in attitude, women need to feel supported and inspired by the industry.

A good place to start is with the language that we choose when referring to the tech industry – we should make sure that we aren’t perpetuating stereotypes of the type of person interested in technology in our choice of words. For example, men are more likely to show interest in careers for ‘driven’ people, while women are more attracted to roles which require you to ‘care deeply’. This is not to say that women are not driven, but rather that they are typically motivated by different semantics to men.

The need for conscientious workers in technology is growing, irrespective of gender and we should ensure that the language we use attracts the broadest range of interest possible. Another important change would be for this issue to be a hot topic year round, not just when International Women’s Day comes round again next March. Our efforts to promote gender equality must be consistent and extend beyond the confines of just one industry sector. More women will choose tech when women feel they have more choices.

Categories: Articles Tags: , , | Comments 22103 Why are tech skills so important to today’s students?

Why is technology important today and in the future, and why should children learn technology skills?

Technology has enriched our lives with greater convenience, improved access to information, and revolutionised how we work. Although many of us are now familiar with using technology, most of us would not know how to build and maintain the websites and Apps we have become so reliant upon.  In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of developing technology expertise and how these build the future skills required to succeed in education and beyond; the consequences of children failing to develop an in-depth understanding of technology; and how parents and educators can help equip children to develop the tech skills that will be required to thrive in tomorrow’s world.

The benefits of developing technological expertise

Those students who are developing tech skills now are silently moving ahead of the competition, learning skills that will be directly relevant to industries and careers of the future – from artificial intelligence to blockchain and machine learning; these are all causing seismic shifts in the ways that businesses and societies operate. Knowledge is power, and understanding these technologies will enable children to flourish in their formal education and beyond.

From learning how to code apps and websites, to knowing how to navigate video editing software, these skills not only help to build directly useful skills required to bring technology-related ideas to life, but they also develop coveted transferable skills. In a world of information, knowing the right answer is actually becoming far less important than knowing the right question to ask. The project-centric nature of learning technology skills, such as programming Apps or developing digital photography portfolios, instills children with the mindset to break down complex problems into more manageable pieces. This is a skill that is increasingly demanded at leading universities and also in high-skilled professions. Children need to know how to search, research and frame the question they are really asking, and this is a vital skill that learning technology develops. Learning how to code can help nurture the problem-solving skills that are central to success in formal education and beyond.

What happens if children don’t develop technological expertise?

Children who don’t develop technological expertise will be left behind in the digital revolution. They may also miss out on the secondary benefits of learning technology skills, such as building problem-solving and logic skills. It’s been proven that learning new skills also equips children with a developmental mindset, which also improves learning agility (quote research). This will become increasingly important in education and beyond when the workforce will need to adapt new skills as technology evolves. Continuous learning will be an essential component to keep up with the changing world of work.

The danger of not learning technology skills is that children will only become passive consumers of technology. Whilst it’s fun to watch videos on YouTube and to play games on a smartphone, it’s imperative that children can create that content too. They can learn to play an active role in the future of entertainment or build a platform that millions of people use to create content. By learning how to code children go from being passive users of apps and games to actively participating in their creation.

What are the best ways to develop new skills?

This information leads us to question, how can we encourage children to develop these ever-crucial tech skills? Firstly, engaging with extracurricular activities is vital, as national curriculum has not yet considered these skills of the future. The leaders in technological professions are worried that this lack of engagement at high school level will lead to less knowledge, interest and passion in technology-based subjects, resulting in less expertise as the world technologically evolves. Therefore, providing children with opportunities to learn advanced skills in this field will widen their prospects as adults. Furthermore, as this provision is not yet built into secondary curriculum, students will hugely benefit from consistent reinforcement of these skills, meaning immersive exposure is most beneficial. Learning tech skills can be likened to learning languages, in the sense that full exposure is the best way to gain thorough, long-term understanding. This approach should be encouraged from a young age when a child’s brain has a sponge-like nature, taking in information faster and developing connections that will stick in their mind. For these reasons, providing children with experiences that allow them focused and consistent learning environments is the best way for them to master a technological discipline. This approach will also encourage them to break the habits of being a passive technology user.

Immerse Yourself

Through its award-winning summer schools, Immerse Education aims to inspire future generations to become technologically minded. On its Technology programmes, students aged 11-15 are encouraged to develop practical and transferable skills that can be applied to their studies and future endeavours, expanding on the curriculum taught at school.

These courses, including App Development and Graphic & 3D design, offer the opportunity to learn innovative tech skills, but also encourage students to develop flexibility, creative thinking and problem solving strategies. Passionate and expert tutors nurture the students’ passion for technology-based subjects. This guidance transforms an interest in technology, giving it both purpose and direction as they explore technical workshops, key theory, and exciting hands-on projects, showing them the endless possibilities that technological knowledge can provide. These skills are developed in an inspiring and supportive environment which also teaches young people to develop balanced and healthy lifestyles. Skills sessions are interspersed with cultural and social activities and excursions that ensure students enjoy all the opportunities that their summer holiday has to offer.

To learn more, visit www.immerse.education (Use code TECH20 for £250 off all tech courses)

computer science Categories: Articles Tags: , , , 22094 The Summer Slide and How to Avoid It

The UK school summer holidays are a source of great anticipation, particularly for children, as well as for their parents who are due a well earned break from the school run. As exciting as the summer can be, it can also cause concern for many parents. Questions of how to make the most of this time are a regular occurrence: How am I going to find childcare for 6 weeks and still manage to work? How am I going to engage my child for this length of time? How can I keep my child from watching TV and playing video games all day?An even more important question that this long break poses, is how parents can ensure that their child continues to develop academically and maintain the progress they have made during the previous year at school. The “summer slide” refers to the academic decline that occurs when children break from school for the summer holiday period. A review of educational research by Cooper, Nye, Charlton, Lindsay and Greathouse states that the average child loses a month of the knowledge they have gained during the academic year each summer, decreasing their opportunity to hit the ground running when they return to school. The brain, like many other elements of the human body, is a muscle. Therefore using it can be likened to training for a particular sport. For example, if an athlete did not train for 6 weeks, they would not be able to perform as well as they would if they had practised and utilised the appropriate muscles. Similarly, if a child does not exercise or train their brain for a similar length of time, they are likely to not perform as well when they return to school.While it is important that children have ample time to rest and enjoy themselves during this break, it is also a great opportunity for them to develop academic skills and keep their brain actively processing information. Summer schools can not only help to prevent the summer slide, but help a child to build new skills and knowledge that will put them at an advantage when returning to school. They are also an effective way of ensuring children benefit from social experiences and engaging extra-curricular activities. Furthermore, residential courses provide children with an unforgettable experience and opportunity to make friends while learning. This provides parents with the reassurance that their children are not only doing something productive with their summer, but also that they are in safe hands, engaged in activities and generally having a wholesome experience which eases the guilt of needing to cram in the work hours alongside childcare!Through its award-winning summer schools, Immerse Education aims to inspire future generations to become technologically minded. On its technology programmes, students aged 11-15 are encouraged to develop practical and transferable skills that can be applied to their studies and future endeavours, expanding on the curriculum taught at school.

These courses, including App Development and Graphic & 3D design, offer the opportunity to learn innovative tech skills, but also encourage students to develop creative thinking and problem solving strategies. Passionate and expert tutors nurture the students’ passion for technology-based subjects. This guidance transforms an interest in technology, giving it both purpose and direction as they explore technical workshops, key theory, and exciting hands-on projects, showing them the endless possibilities that technological knowledge can provide. These skills are developed in an inspiring and supportive environment which also teaches young people to develop balanced and healthy lifestyles. Skills sessions are interspersed with cultural and social activities and excursions that ensure students enjoy all the opportunities that their summer holiday has to offer.

To learn more, visit www.immerse.education (Use code TECH20 for £250 off all tech courses)Cooper H., Nye B., Charlton K., Lindsay J., Greathouse S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227–268. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.3102/00346543066003227

summer Categories: Articles Tags: , , , , 10013 Robotics Revolution – Soft Robots and the Promise They Hold

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When we hear the word “robot”, we probably think of “the Terminator” from the 1980s movie, or maybe a huge moving arm in a car factory. But a new and expanding field is introducing a new type of robot, with huge potential into our world. We could be seeing these robots being used for a huge assortment of tasks, such as helping surgeons perform operations or testing water quality in the sea.

Soft robotics is a self-explanatory term – it is a subfield of engineering and robotics dealing with robots made from compliant materials, making the robots more animal-like than most robots we see in films and on TV. This area has recently hit the headlines after having huge success making “muscles” which can lift up to 1000 times their own weight. So, is this a one-off success story, or an expanding area to watch?

Robots Have Muscles?

In December last year, researchers from Harvard and MIT published research on robotic muscles they had made which can twist, grab and hold heavy weights. These incredible mechanisms are based on origami and, depending on how they are folded, will deform differently when triggered.

They work by exploiting pressure differences – they are made from an inner folded ‘skeleton’, with a fluid (like air or water) surrounding it, all sealed inside a ‘skin’. To make the robot move, a vacuum is created inside the sealed casing, which causes the skin to collapse onto the skeleton, creating tension and moving the muscle. To help you imagine it, it’s just like putting a spring inside a vacuum packing bag and sucking all the air out – you’d expect the spring to compress as the outside bag presses in on it. This action causes the skeleton to shrink down to just 10% of it’s original size, which means it has a really large range of movement. Another great thing about these robotic ‘muscles’ is the materials they’re made of. They can be made out of relatively thin layers of plastic, meaning they can even be made transparent – speakers which can produce all frequencies of sound which we can hear and are completely transparent have been made using this technology!

A wide variety of robots have been made; some can pick objects up, as well as twisting and moving them. Some can even be attached to people’s skin, controlling their movement. NUI Galway’s Dr Ellen Roche, a biomedical engineer took this idea one step further. Before Dr Roche’s incredible work, people with acute heart failure, whose hearts could no longer pump their blood could be fitted with an LVAD (left ventricular assist device), which literally takes the blood from the very bottom of the heart, sends it through a pump and injects it right into the major artery coming out of the top of the heart.

At first glance, this sounds like a completely reasonable solution. However, as usual, problems lurk just beneath the surface. When blood comes into contact with a foreign surface, the platelets in the blood automatically think they must be outside of the body. Their natural response in this situation, is of course to make the blood clot. This can be absolutely disastrous – if a blood clot travels around in your blood stream, it could block a blood vessel and lead to a stroke or heart attack. To stop this happening, patients with an LVAD need to take blood thinners, which can cause dizziness, weakness and can stop you healing properly from even a small cut. Dr Roche’s idea was to use soft robotics to make a sleeve for the heart, which could pump with it, most importantly never coming in contact with the blood. Dr Roche used the technology I mentioned before to make a silicon sleeve, with fibres capable of contracting and relaxing, to fit around the sleeve.

This process took considerable development – the heart’s motion isn’t a simple squeeze. The heart actually squeezes and twists together at the same time, with different layers of muscle causing these different movements. Dr Roche’s sleeve also has 2 layers, one of which squeezes and one which twists. The sleeve also plugs into the heart’s own electrical network – the tiny electrical signals which tell the heart when to pump, produced by the pacemaker cells, can be tapped into by Dr Roche’s device so the sleeve pumps in time with the heart. Although more testing is needed, this amazing device could change millions of lives and revolutionise the way we look at treating failing organs and other conditions. For example, the same technology is now being used by scientists at Harvard to create exoskeletons to help stroke patients walk again.

In other parts of the world, researchers and engineers are taking inspiration from nature to build their soft robots. At the BioRobotics Institute in Pontedera, Italy, scientists have created robots with movement based on that of octopuses. Octopuses have no bones or hard parts in their bodies, so are an ideal model for a soft robot.

Researchers have created segments which can twist and turn like an octopus’s tentacles. By attaching a camera to this flexible rod, they formed a tool for surgery which allows surgeons to get a close-up view of exactly what they’re doing, from whatever angle they want. If more were needed to convince you that soft robots have buckets of potential for changing the world, they are also seriously cheap to make – with costs for making a robotic arm coming in at under $1, soft robots seem to secure themselves a place in the future of robotics.

If you compared the running of a car factory 50 years ago to today, the impact of traditional “hard” robots (the kind made of metal and nuts and bolts) would be as clear as day. In my opinion, soft robots are on their way to making similar changes to the face of healthcare, manufacture and more in the near future.

Sources:

Superpowered origami muscles in soft robots can be built for less than $1
Why wearing your sleeve on your heart is a thing in soft robotics
Soft robotics needs the same breakthrough rigid robots had in the 1980s
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