Last week I was part of a small team that met with some of the applicants for the technology start-ups category of Jisc’s 2015 Summer of Student Innovation co-design challenges.
Our brief was to carve out a shortlist of really strong concepts to receive funding and support for six months of further development work.
We’ve selected four really strong candidates with real potential to improve various aspects of academic and social life for students. Our shortlist is as follows.
Houndly, ‘the university apps software’
Gameli Ladzekpo and Sachin Raoul, from University College London (UCL) are part of a group of students developing Houndly, originally a Facebook page and blog that have now evolved into a university events app that acts as a hub for everything that happens within a student’s institution from seminars and workshops to summer balls.
Gameli and Sachin’s pitch to us explained that their university often welcomes very high profile speakers and that the complexity of the organisation and busy-ness of life make it easy to miss out on even high profile events only to hear about them later from other people.
That is frustrating for students who miss opportunities and also for the people who organise them, so the Houndly app draws it all together from the many information sources across the institution and pushes out alerts. It offers the facility to select the kinds of events you want to hear about. It has the power to enrich academic and social life and it has the firm backing of UCL.
Houndly is gaining traction across its home institution and the developers have plans to roll it out to institutions across the UK.
Raspberry Pi camera robot kit
Alan Broun, a PhD candidate in robotics at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (via the University of the West of England) has devised a low cost electronics kit to help people learn how to build a robot and develop programming skills. It opens up the possibility of working with a robot for many more students.
Alan has developed a series of apps that enable students to control their robot and - what really impressed us – he has already sold 700 of the kits online, not just to university students but also to older school-age students and to members of the general public. That proves that the idea has broad appeal and he is capitalising on this by working with a number of universities that offer outreach programmes into colleges and schools.
Future plans include development of support services so that more schools and colleges can work with the kits to develop practical programming projects of their own.
Abigail Holsborough, an Economics student at the University of Cambridge came up with RouteMap, an online tool which allows university faculties to create challenges tailored to their courses for prospective applicants to work through.
Completing challenges will help candidates develop the knowledge and skills needed to make a successful application, whilst earning digital badges which can be used by admissions staff to evaluate student potential beyond one-dimensional personal statements.
Employers can create challenges focussed on specific roles they are recruiting for, offering targeted skills development and wider commercial awareness on the firm/industry as a whole. Applicants can work through challenges to explore different career paths, again earning digital badges at different levels which can be embedded within recruitment processes.
The University of Reading’s Dr Norbert Morawetz, who lectures in entrepreneurship, leadership organisation and behaviour, presented us with Potential.ly, an already well-developed online service that enhances collaborative learning skills and employability. He says that tutors try hard to foster collaboration and team working skills by putting students to work in group situations but these often don’t work well because personalities and skills are not matched up effectively.
Potential.ly profiles student behaviours and characteristics so that tutors can group people together into teams in a much more productive way.
Each of the shortlisted projects now goes on to receive funding and support from Jisc for six months of further development work, to see how they can be taken forwards to benefit students and institutions across the UK and this is where EdTech Futures comes in.
We provide consultancy services to start-ups in education technology and we will be providing the start-up project teams with mentoring via Emerge Education and its accelerator programme. Delivered in partnership with Jisc, the Emerge Education programme will run for six months.
Typically the accelerator is intended for businesses at a more mature stage in their development so this, we hope, will enable the three projects to forge ahead rapidly and deliver sustainable products for the education sectors.
Stay up to date
To keep up to date with the progress of this year’s candidates and find out more about the Summer of Student Innovation, take a look at Paul Bailey’s blog post launching the 2015 competition and read the detailed Summer of Student Innovation resources, which include links to the projects already being supported.