Half term idea?

Today I had a lovely day out. We took the Northern Line to London Bridge, then the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich. Then we went over the Thames on the Emirates Cable Car – I loved this bit of the journey best – it was so peaceful, with great views. (If you use an Oyster card it’s £3.50 Adult / £1.70 Child, each way).


Just by the Cable Car station is The Crystal, a beautiful building, shaped like a Crystal, and one of the world’s most sustainable buildings. Inside is an exhibition about Smart Cities & sustainability. I think you’d enjoy some of the exhibits, it’s very interactive – you get a smart card to swipe at each stand. Upstairs is really for grown ups but downstairs is more exciting. Entry is free for everyone under 18, and for those working in education, so if either of your parents or carers work in education, get them to bring their staff badge along! Oh, and the cafe’s fab (award-winning) and you get 10% discount if anyone pays for the exhibition. There is a lawn outside, right by the water, if you fancy a picnic, and you may get to watch the planes land and some water-skiers!


The particular things I thought you might enjoy are:

  • The main, curved video downstairs – look out for the blue signs telling you extra information, they’re really interesting
  • The facial recognition stand – you get to test your skills!
  • The emergency response stand – you direct the emergency services then get to see how algorithms and social media can be used instead
  • The Kinetic energy footpath
  • You can calculate the carbon cost of your journey to The Crystal
  • See how much electricity you can generate on the bikes
  • The Smart City information signs
  • Over the bank holiday weekend, you can recycle a jam jar..

If you don’t get to go, here’s the main video (it’s a bit more boring as the actual one’s a curved screen – 4 videos at once):

And here are some photos I took for you:

And here’s a video about how the actual building was made and a virtual tour.




Bionic Prosthetic Arm

Watch this amazing video about a young man called James Young, that Mr Hovell found for you:



Adapted from an article in The Independent:

“Designed and built by a team of 10 experts led by London-based prosthetic sculptor Sophie de Oliveira Barata, the £60,000 carbon-fibre limb is part art project, part engineering marvel.

The limb is fitted with a 3D-printed hand that is controlled by sensors that detect minute muscle movements in Mr Young’s back. Designed by Bristol firm Open Bionics, it is substantially more dextrous than the rudimentary NHS prosthetic he acquired following his accident.

Dexterity – the ability to grip a bottle, give a thumbs-up signal or offer a handshake – is only part of the story. The arm also features a torch, a laser and banks of LED lights that can be programmed to display different colours or synchronised with Mr Young’s heartbeat. There is a USB port in the wrist for charging phones or uploading data to a display panel, and a mount for a miniature quadcopter – a tiny drone – that can be controlled using one hand from a panel mounted on the forearm.

Mr Young won’t suffer from a lack of data either. A miniature screen mounted in the arm will display his Twitter feed and email. The unusual project was inspired by the release of the latest edition of a computer game that has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide.”


I contacted James on Twitter last night with questions from Benjy & Matvei and he really kindly provided the following information:

How does the bionic hand know how/when to move?

“Signals from EMG sensors are able to measure (through the skin) the electrical potential caused by contracting skeletal muscle cells, which is changed into a digital signal which a microprocessor in the hand is able to recognise. My EMG sensors are on both of my shoulders.”

Here’s a video showing how it works:


And here’s a link to a video showing how it was actually developed for James to use:


Human Internet of Things

I read this on Raconteur’s website (you can click on the picture to read on the website but you only need the first few paragraphs and avoid the adverts – always be careful clicking on links!):


Mark told me there was a program on BBC this evening about a man with a computer in his (bionic) arm for checking Facebook, Twitter etc.

And Steffi told me this morning about something she read about hacking humans?….

I eagerly await more details!

Smart Cities – some more ideas

A definition of a Smart City:


Some simple, Smart ideas from IBM – turn their adverts into useful objects for people in the city to use – a shelter, a seat and a ramp:

An infographic showing some ideas for Smart Cities from Raconteur.net (click to enlarge):

Smart Cities

An infographic showing some of the Smartest Cities, now and in the future, from Solar Bins (check out their own solar-powered rubbish bins here):


And, in Merton:

  • We have solar panels on 23 public buildings including schools and leisure centres
  • We have some trial solar compacting bins in parks (I think there may be one in Wimbledon Park)
  • The council’s Planning Strategy aims to make us a leader in improving environment, tackling climate change, reducing pollution & using less resources
  • They have produced a leaflet for children on Climate change, which encourages children to be environmentally aware. You can read it here:

climate change

(Many thanks to my friend Cllr Andrew Judge for all this local information)



Smart Cities

Ellie found a great video on Smart Cities! Thanks, Ellie:

Can you find out what a Smart City is and share your ideas & any questions/ suggestions you may have in a comment please?  You could start your comment:

  • “I think a Smart City is…”, or
  • “I think this is what a Smart City would look like…”, or
  • “These are the sort of things I would like to see in a Smart City…”

I’m excited to hear your ideas! What do you think the word Smart used here means? Can you think of other technologies preceded by this word?

Some videos from Tunde

Tunde kindly emailed us some videos that he thought would interest you. Isn’t he fabulous?!

I have a question for you…Can you find out anything about Smart Cities? I’m fascinated by the idea and my neighbour’s job involves working with them.

Smart Fridge

And this one’s 4 years old – imagine what’s possible now?!

Smart Traffic Lights:

Collaborative Robots:

Melanie & Tunde!

We were very lucky  to welcome two special visitors to school yesterday. We first met Melanie when we took part in I’m An Engineer Get Me Outta Here as part of our school STEM week. Melanie & Tunde are engineers who work for HSSMI (High Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute!). They work with augmented reality technology and robotics to develop improvements for industries eg car building. We had such fun learning about their jobs and asking them about how the computing technologies we learn about are used in the real world. They also helped us to develop our bin designs – many improvements!

They told us about their careers – they are both engineers, studying PhD’s. Tunde is a “mechatronic engineer”, which he explained is a combination of mechanical and electronic engineering. They research ways to improve processes and solve problems. As well as how things work, they have to consider things about how their inventions may affect people’s lives – such as safeguarding their data and privacy. Engineers work in many areas – chemical engineers may design cosmetics, engineers design life-saving & life-improving medical equipment such as baby incubators and artificial limbs, civil engineers design bridges & software engineers write programs. If you’re interested in a career in engineering, click here or here. There is an event here that might also interest you. There are some lovely Wallace & Gromit engineering challenges here – I think you’ll enjoy them.(It took me a while to work out what to do but I think you’ll get there a bit quicker than me!)

We were really motivated by this visit and school is really buzzing today.


Augmented reality blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell. Augmented reality is closer to the real world than virtual reality – it adds graphics, sounds, haptic feedback and smell to the natural world as it exists.

Melanie & Tunde showed us two Augmented Reality examples – Chromville & Leap Motion:



Chromville is a free app that makes your drawings come to life and lets you interact with them. You need to visit the Chromville website to find the colouring sheets and to download the app (there is a version for ios and for Android/ Google).

Leap motion

Leap motion is a small, USB pad that senses your hands and replicates them on the computer screen. You can then try to build using your virtual hands, controlled by your real hands! Melanie & Tunde brought one in for us to play with:


Can you think of some useful applications for this in the real world?

Learn more by watching the video below:

(Thanks to lots of people on Twitter for recommending links for this post – @cambselearning @TheIET @gamesbritannia )

Fingerprint Security

Last year in Code Club, we looked at fingerprint scanners, how they worked and whether we liked the idea or not. If you weren’t in Code Club last year, you can read the post here

A university has printed fingerprints on paper and has been able to use them to unlock mobile phones. What do you think about using your fingerprint as security and to identify you?

This is from another website -The Verve:
“In five minutes, a single person faked a fingerprint and broke into my phone. It was simple, All it took was some dental mould to take a cast, some play-dough to fill it, and then a little trial and error to line up the play-dough on the fingerprint reader. We did it twice with the same print: once on an iPhone 6 and once on a Galaxy S6 Edge. As hacks go, it ranks just a little harder than steaming open a letter.” The article goes on to explain that you can even 3D print a fingerprint mould from a 2D pattern: