STEM to STEAM with a Paint-off Challenge

Think I might’ve sounded a little grumpy lately. Waiting expectantly for a Watercolorbot is one thing but tackling the delivery service encountering comms barriers is another *.

Continually looking for approaches and resources to support the Research and Play, I thought this could be a project to explore areas for inclusive computing opportunities and the ease of transition from STEM to STEAM.

And in terms of raising aspirations and introducing more role models it seemed like an ideal opportunity.


Click to launch video clip

Ease of use?  Wow – out of the box, software installed and first artwork created and printed in under 20 minutes.

What happened then?  That was the Sunday Paint-off; hand over to the under-10s and see what they discover.  Plug and go then reflect and plan.  And they discover that they can build on skills using Scratch to create!

Next steps?  

  • Evaluation of impact through enrichment and/or formal curriculum activities.
  • Secondary phase evaluation to include mainstream and special schools.
  • Hack opportunities if a Raspberry Pi powered the board and then which areas of the curriculum could it support?
  • Used as a visualisation tool how could current data projects be incorporated?

Now some teachers have used the littleBits resource boxes in Hull to support STEM clubs and a Raspberry Pi Club.   Wonder if we’ll go retro with a Raspberry Pi powered Etch A Sketch?   I certainly hope so 🙂


* At one point the parcel looked to be heading straight back to California on a flight. Those similarities of location from a regular commute past the Humber Bridge kept frustrations at the forefront of my mind, and from where #BoomerangArt was born…


Time for data to impact on (my) dance performance? Probably. Time for Data Science in school? Definitely.

  • Can health data impact on educational performance and are we at a stage where affordable ‘wearable tech’ can support a school-based project?
  • Can we use a health focus for a project to engage young people and learn & debate the issues from the field of Data Science?

These are a couple of areas that I’ve been mulling over, and asking questions about, since last Summer and areas where the speed of tech advancements and innovation have changed my opinions at each stage.

There’s been many a conversation about the potential of wearables to impact on students’ health and also to underpin creative projects to include collecting and analysing personal data. Which in turn, I believe, needs to lead to informed choices to enhance performance by supporting decision making.  But opportunities to explore big data and the internet of things on a much bigger scale and through data science?

No, that hasn’t been possible.  Not seamlessly or cost-effectively anyway. And that means not for our educational setting.


MiBand and Pebble – personal devices?

We’ve used the Research and Play project to explore areas but it’s been very much on an individual level.  Apps and devices, which have included the Xiaomi MiBand and Pebble watch, have been fantastic tools to use to collect data and then consider the analysis of that data. On a very small scale they’ve enabled us to explore collection, analysis, modelling, data visualisation techniques and problem solving which has led into the IOT and privacy of data topics.

But there’s been an on-going iPad comparison in my mind that these wearables have been individual devices.  Very much personal tools to inform individuals about their own individual performance and actually in education I’ve been looking for the capability to reach into big data and collaborative opportunities.

Apple Watch has been a timely (sorry) conversation piece, specifically for the privacy and ownership of data and the IOT debate, but again not one to support our intended project.


Data Crunch – empowering children through data

And then we touch on a ‘Health in Numbers’ data project, developed with the Young Pioneers charity, to support teachers and learners through data projects, as well as positively impacting on health & educational performance. The collaboration includes a blend of teacher CPD around the computing curriculum and projects launched through a peer to peer model of learning.

A ‘Big Data Gym Day’ early next month will give students an opportunity to collect initial performance data to make target setting decisions as a group and individually.  What does 10,000 steps mean, anyway?  And how much is enough and how much is too much?

We’ll use that first project day as a ‘Data Crunch’ opportunity to help to benchmark and start collaborative planning. This initial experiential fitness day will be a chance to use tech as a positive enabler and to engage young people with an introduction to data science too.

Using the immersive tech (interactive cycling, rowing, running machines, cardio walls and an immersive cube), it’ll be an opportunity to start data collection in a physical environment that some of our students have enjoyed at a previous event. And it’s also a time for each school or the group of schools to consider cumulative performance data as we now have that portal capability for big data.

No more individual devices with individual data sets to inform an individual’s performance. The Pebble+ device from Fitlinxx will let us explore big data collaboratively.  And those possibilities, opportunities, implications, choices, benefits and areas to be considered from the portal…..will be considered initially through the IOT aspect of the CPD programme. At which point teachers will make an informed decision.  So it’s possible and for them to decide.

Collaboration with Pebble+ ?


A range of data sets, opportunities through big data, and a set of tools with a range of skills and examples to make the best use of that data to impact on performance. That’s the plan.

Wonder which questions the groups will pose at the onset of their project?  They’ll be taking the tech back into school and each school could well have a different project.  That’s Research and Play.

Students empowered to consider health and well-being lifestyle choices through analysis of their routine and data? As data scientists they’ll evaluate their own decisions based on their own data to help inform.  We’ll be looking to evaluate the support with the computing curriculum and we’ll leave those health conversations to the schools. Although we would like to hear at some point: )

As for the dance example, the same range of apps and wearable tech devices have been invaluable over the last year, but on a general health & fitness level.  The gap has been to genuinely impact on dance technique and performance through wearable tech and without other technology tools.  Until now.


This is the term when I’ll be able to evaluate wearables as they collect data to track posture and definite foot and heel movements.  That’s a huge (ballroom & latin) step towards my personal performance improvement 🙂