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Prince Henry’s Grammar School wins Premier Farnell tech challenge with pill dispenser for the visually-impaired

Students from Prince Henry’s Grammar School are celebrating after fending off tough competition from 10 other schools and colleges to be named overall winners at the Premier Farnell Technology Challenge, supported by Leeds Beckett University.

Pupils competing in the wearable technology challenge

Competing against schools and colleges from Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale and Wakefield, students had to research, plan and create a working prototype of a piece of technology to meet the brief of helping someone with a physical or sensory impairment Prince Henry’s showcased a pill dispenser for the visually-impaired.

More than 400 students took part in this year’s challenges. Pupils took part in a range of workshops and activities designed by Premier Farnell and Leeds Beckett University on topics such as user-centred design and coding skills to help them design their concept. The best concepts were then chosen to go forward in the competition.

Sarah Thomas, Access and Widening Participation Manager at Leeds Beckett University, said: “Leeds Beckett University is delighted to be involved in the Premier Farnell Technology Challenge. We know from speaking to the students that the project has equipped participants with the creative and technical skills needed to pursue successful careers within the industry and has allowed our undergraduate students to share their expertise and gain valuable experience of working with young people in our region.”

The winning team developed a prototype using Raspberry Pi technology and coding to ensure their dispenser would release just the right number of pills when programmed by a user or carer.

Charlie Lyttle (17) a student from Prince Henry’s, commented: “It was a close competition and we were so surprised when our name was read out as the overall winner. We are all very relieved as we have put so much work and effort into creating the prototype.  This is something that we can celebrate now and talk about in the future.”

Shipley College were crowned as the people’s champion with their Dementiaid, a product that uses facial recognition to inform a person with dementia, if a visitor is known or safe. This award was judged by the students taking part who were asked to vote for the prototype they felt was most impressive. 

The Premier Farnell Technology Challenge aims to raise aspirations and help young people, explore careers in the digital and tech industry which is set to grow by 15% in this region over the next decade.

Ralf Buehler, SVP of Sales & Marketing for Premier Farnell, said: “I am overwhelmed by the creativity, inspiration and enthusiasm that these students brought to the challenge.  It was a difficult decision to make and we chose Prince Henry’s because their entry was outstanding across all areas, from careful consideration of the users needs and practical application of the device to potential marketing and an excellent overall presentation. I would like to thank all the schools/colleges that took part in our Challenge. As a global technology business based in Leeds, we are committed to introducing the next generation to technology and the opportunities that it presents.”

The Premier Farnell Technology Challenge was organised with local social enterprise Ahead Partnership which has supported over 100,000 young people to date with real-life, hands-on experiences designed by local employers.

Stephanie Burras CBE, Ahead Partnership’s Chief Executive, said: “Over two million people work in digital in the UK and in this region, where demand is ever-increasing, it’s imperative that we help young people see the diverse opportunities available. We’re delighted to have worked alongside Premier Farnell to directly tackle this demand by challenging young people’s perceptions of the tech industry, helping them develop their creativity and focus on innovation within a potentially global marketplace.

“All schools and colleges involved should be very proud of the prototypes they created. There were some really fantastic and very imaginative ideas presented. All of the judges were very impressed.”

Judges from Premier Farnell, Leeds Beckett University, Jet2.com, Tunstall, Arris, Foundation for Digital Creativity, LightStart, Egton Digital, Disability Services Team at Leeds City Council, InHealthcare, Aspire CBS, O2, Ayup, PSI Volition, RNIB, Team17 and RabbIT were all involved in judging the school-based competitions and in crowning an overall regional winner.

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