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Smart technology at work across Europe

Posted 16th October 2015

On the 3-4 October 2015, Michel Wermelinger attended the Maker Fair in Berlin, an event created by Make magazine to "celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself mindset". Michel reports and gives his thoughts on some of the innovations on display.

The event was extremely well attended with a number of exhibitors, several of which were schools, showcasing their innovations. One school was demonstrating their RoboSoccer entry.

The IPSIA Galileo Galilei School/University (http://ipsia-galilei.gov.it), has purchased drones and are modifying them for various purposes. In Italy, where it is legal to fly drones in small towns, they had one prototype for pharmacies to deliver medicine to elderly people. The recipient has a modified garage door opener, when they see the drone coming they press a button, the medicine drops on the ground and the drone returns to the pharmacy. Other envisaged purposes are guiding tourists, coaching runners to keep their pace, delivering newspapers, taking photos at a fashion event and pouring grappa! Further information can be found at http://dronilab.blogspot.it.

Another school had brought the Sensebox Edu which is a school kit with environment sensors. The kit was developed by the Institute for Geoinformatics at the University Münster and there is also Sensebox Home for citizen science. To view photos and more information visit http://sensebox.uni-muenster.de. There is also a mapping site that collects geo-located measurements.

The RWTH Aachen University (http://schuelerlabor.informatik.rwth-aachen.de) has created an onsite school lab where everything is set up in advance for teachers and their classes to come and learn about computing. The university group has created several modules (from a few hours to multiple days) and the teaching materials are available, in German of course. In the fair they were demonstrating some of the maker projects, but they also have a module on AI.

Yet another sensor kit (with accelerometer, IR transmitter, etc.) is the chocolate-like Wunderbar from http://dev.relayr.io. The sensor data goes to the cloud and you can see live data streaming in a dashboard. It is possible for a tutor to see students’ data by knowing the sensor Ids.

http://tinkerbots.com is a type of very simplified Lego Technic with a special motor, grip and sensor bricks to build simple cable-free robots that can be controlled from a smartphone or tablet app. They can’t be programmed yet but I was told there will be an API for developers to extend the system. They also said the robots could be taught by moving them ourselves (a bit like Baxter?).

Also in attendance was an organisation from Germany called MINT Impuls (http://www.mint-impuls.de) who carryout public STEM (MINT in German) engagement projects. I was given an iPhone add-on to measure dust in the air and then send the data to a server. They are collecting data from citizens in London (via Imperial College) and Berlin. The iPhone was chosen because the camera is always in the same place.  

If you would like to find out more please contact michel.wermelinger@open.ac.uk

Image: Michel Wermelinger