Raspberry Pi volleyball net

Raspberry Pi coding competition challenges schoolchildren to improve disabled lives

Image credit: James Hayes

A Smart Hat that vibrates to warn its blind wearer if they are about to bump into an object, an interactive volleyball net for wheelchair users to keep score, and a drum kit for Parkinson’s sufferers to beat stress with music were among the finalists in the 2017 Raspberry Pi competition at Savoy Place, the IET’s London HQ.

The competition, organised and sponsored by PA Consulting Group, challenged young technologist teams to use Raspberry Pis to build innovations designed to improve the lives of people with conditions that limit their ability to do everyday tasks and activities.

Now in its fifth year, the competition invites entries from school teams throughout the UK, and features categories for academic years 4-to-6, 7-to-11, and 12-13. It aims to give students their first experience of computer product development and encourages participant teams to work with a mix of skills and abilities, including project management and community outreach, as well as coding and hardware/software integration.

The category winners were: St Mary’s School, which devised a door-entry system that helps deaf-blind people identify visitors to their homes; Max Amos, a 13-year-old student at Haileybury College, who developed MxStation, a monitoring tool for carers of the elderly to address the risks of unattended falls; and King Edward VI Grammar School, whose team created a learning game to assist and support those with attention-deficit disorders and dyslexia.

Runners-up included Echo, a Smart Hat developed by Young Makers Tech Club that detects the proximity of objects around it when placed on someone’s head and triggers a vibration unit when the wearer gets too close; an interactive volleyball net by Egglescliffe CE Primary School that provides a scoring and sound system for seated and wheelchair players; and Snare Brain, a drum kit device to aid music therapy for people with disabilities such as Parkinson’s disease, invented by Thorpe St Andrew School and Sixth Form.

Competition judges included IT leads from the Bank of England and retailer John Lewis. The competition is supported by the Raspberry Pi foundation and ARM, among others.

For the first time in the competition’s history this year’s panel of judges included a former Raspberry Pi competition winner, Tom Hartley, now studying at Imperial College London. His air-quality monitoring entry was turned into a commercial product following his 2012 competition win.

“Raspberry Pi Competition entries are getting more and more complex and creative each year,” Hartley says. “Comparison with the entries from 2012 shows how the UK’s young technologists’ skills have advanced in the last five years. The Raspberry Pi competition is very important for young technologists.”

“We want to encourage children to develop their coding skills and not just focus on technology,” says Anita Chandraker, head of digital at PA Consulting Group and chair of the judging panel. “We need more young people to be aware of – and excited by – the variety of opportunities that a career in technology offers. These skills are now critical to every organisation.”

Read more about the Raspberry Pi competition.

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