children of Primary School age ( 5 to 10 yrs). Themed ‘Forest/Glass/Timber’, the building is designed to fit well into the local wooded space.

Overall the

concept is to create a “Happy Building” and this also figures in the application of the innovative elements. The project team is selected, formal planning process is underway, building contracts are set, and the new facility will be ready for use from late March 2021– one year from when the pandemic hit hard! Between now and then the key task is underway to fully involve the school management, teachers, and most importantly… the kids themselves.

The Innovative Elements The overall goal of the Outdoor Innovation Classroom is to provide additional space for the school, and to equip this space with a range of facilities to create an aspirational learning environment with a sense of technology, Innovation, children.

and enjoyment Initial topics will include:

a. Climate & Environment b. Power Generation: Wind, Solar, Water

c. Agri Tech: Plant health/ Moisture/Sunlight

d. Motion : Machines/Robotics e. Flight/Space

In choosing these topics, the important task is to select an enabling technology vehicle that is powerful enough to accomplish the technology scope, capable of allowing interaction and coding by the youngest pupils, and be cost effective to enable upgrade, expansion and replacement for many years to come.

Immediately out in front is the Raspberry PI system. This is an amazing single board computer, specifically designed to teach young people how to code in languages such as Scratch and Python, and has a whole host of low cost hardware and sensors available to achieve whatever you can conceive. A true tool for innovation.

Along with the Pi based systems, the OIC is also equipped to bring climate


Power Generation For Power Generation, a wind turbine is located on the roof, together with a solar panel. Energy is collected outside and routed to a control unit


from where it is stored in a lithium battery system before being inverted to AC voltage.

A dedicated OIC power

trunking distributes power to the OIC elements, as well as providing USB sockets for the ‘Take home Power’ supplies. Power generation performance will be graphically displayed and the impact significance of weather is visually evident in kid coded friendly simplified images. Inside the OIC, separate micro wind

and water power generating modules, Pi integrated and Scratch coded, show voltage

measurement, powering of

LEDs, and active explanatory displays coded by children.

Agri Tech: Plant health/ Moisture/Sunlight The Happy Plant module will incorporate soil moisture and sunlight sensors connected

to plants located outside for the

awareness in to the classroom, as well as Renewable Energy Power Generation, nature sourced …. and the kids get to take home their IT tablets, filled with free energy gifted from nature!

Climate and Environment The Climate and Environment equipment includes a roof mounted weather station. It measures external temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction while wirelessly transmitting data to the building interior.

and also within the OIC building. The sensors measure soil moisture levels at the plants and the Scratch/Python based programs enable the plants to show their sadness when they need water and express Happiness after they have been watered by the children.

Inside the classroom is a Pi based unit, equipped with temperature, humidity, and pressure sensors modules assembled and programmed by the children displaying the building interior environment conditions.


Pi based sensors measure indoor air quality—total volatile organic compounds (TVOC) and equivalent CO2 (eCO2) displayed by kid designed graphics! Innovation will be used to create colourful rainbows, both through natural refraction and using digital RGB light strips.

Motion: Machines/Robotics Intelligent machines play an ever-more significant role in peoples’ lives and demystifying how they work at an early age can be important. The Motion module is designed for assembly by the older children and allows for every coding form and preference. Desktop sized, and including simple servo control, the robot can be manually operated by any age group (even adults !) or programmed readily by the older children. Innovation is the challenge for how to apply the robot to accomplish tasks ……… perhaps even watering the Happy plant! Additionally, a solar powered or ‘OIC power’ charged vehicle is ‘on the grid’.


Flight/Space is today in the vocabulary of every child, and the prospect of travel to the Moon and Mars is well within the children’s horizons.


challenge here is to maximise the children’s participation in the scoping and equipping of this element… and hopefully bring to the OIC, the ever- changing and real technology elements to nurture and stimulate the interest of all of the children that will pass through the Innovation classroom. So how does this all fit in with

the Investment Casting Industry: The IC industry, like all other sectors, is dependent upon attracting the new generation to

join this great industry

……. and stimulating interest in all things Innovation can’t come soon enough in our lives. When the kids of today reach the age of employment, hopefully the IC industry will have done enough to attract them to want to join us. Jim Byrne is founder and former Chairman/Director of VA Technology Ltd. Accomplished author and recipient of the ICI’s Hall of Honor distinction.

December 2020 ❘ 37

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