‘I’ve got an idea Fund’ – 3 new awards made

Our ‘I’ve got an idea’ micro fund received over 60 applications in February with a wonderfully eclectic range of ideas. The discovery of so many individuals and small organisations out there with great ideas inspired by their engagement with environmental and social issues is energising.

The ideas ranged wildly from shoe design to hot dogs, from virtual theatre to walking sticks, from clothing to online environmental games, from dentistry to slave trafficking detection, from mental health to sound energy, from nutrition to hair cutting, from cross cultural music to drink-driving education, from bio-based manufacture to autism and on and on. Unfortunately, our funding pot is very small and so we had to make some really tough choices this time around. We’d like to thank everyone who applied and we hope that the many projects we weren’t able to fund find other ways to progress their ideas.

We were drawn to the small ideas which are DIY based where individuals or groups are building and incrementally testing their technical idea themselves rather than outsourcing the development to a specialist company. This also means that we can fund more projects with the limited money we have available as outsourcing software, hardware or content development tends to eat up anyone’s funds fast. But the main reason is that we know, from our own experience, that building the idea yourself is more fun and the best way of evolving it, gaining new knowledge and skills and learning what works and doesn’t work. Having fun collaborating and experimenting through hands on doing is where the spirit of this particular fund lies.

So, we are pleased to announce the following 3 award winners this time around:-

Timerz system for sprint cyclists

Founded by Hannah Escott, an international racing cyclist, the Open Trail charity uses cycling to help disadvantaged and disaffected young people in Kidderminster. Cycling helps develop their self-confidence, resilience and hope for the future. Open Trail has had great success in getting local young people to attend school regularly and to continue with education after their final exams.

Open Trail’s idea is Timerz – the first timing system to be a portable, use at home system for testing sprint time over space. It won’t require setting up timing strips, beams and equipment. Their plan is an easy set-up, low cost option for grass roots racers and athletes looking for high performance on a budget. They have been working on the first prototype.

Building the Timerz prototype

Timerz was inspired by the young people with whom Open Trail work. The young cyclists love to race and explore what makes them go faster. They want to test their theories and measure what makes a difference. The hope is that Timerz will help them test and explore their curiosity, to find graphs and charts exciting and empowering and to learn that STEM isn’t something you do in the classroom but in everyday life. Open Trail want Timerz to demonstrate that you can be a scientist or an engineer even if you don’t get an A in the classroom.

One of their group, a 15 year old with an enthusiasm and proven talent for electronics and programming, has started working on building a prototype Timerz system. The Idea Fund award will enable him to acquire all the parts he needs to get Timerz to a working stage where the other youngsters can enjoy testing and hopefully refining it into an Open Trail product.

We wish the team at Open Trail every success and a lot of electronics and speed testing fun en route.

Air quality sensor pin badge – Perfect Sense AQ

Ava Garnside (14 years) from Leeds is interested in the environment and how her contemporaries can work together to help preserve the planet. In her own words, she wishes to “accelerate our understanding about the action needed to achieve climate ambition and grasp how pollution affects us every day. I believe that science and technology hold the key to achieving ambitious climate goals, helping us to stay healthy and preserving the planet for future generations.”

For Ava it started with a concern about the air pollution on her daily walk to school so she built a device that could attach to her bag or blazer with sensors to collect pollution data. She wants to help more people turn their own environmental data into information for health reasons, instead of being reliant on information shared by the government or other central organisations. Ava has already won several notable awards for her first version of  ‘Perfect Sense AQ’ . Since then, Ava has set up her own social enterprise with the ambition to give everyone an equal chance to become empowered and make health and climate-positive decisions based on analysing their own data.

Our Ideas Fund award will enable Ava to build 6 more ‘Perfect Sense AQ’ sensor devices and work on the challenges of data collection, transmission and presenting the data back to the pin badge wearer in a meaningful way. Each device has sensors to measure particulate matter 2.5 and particulate matter 10, an electronics board, a case and a power supply. She aims for the pin badge to be the smallest, wearable, air quality data collection device on the market as well as cool and fashionable to wear.

She hopes the follow-up user case studies will get more people talking about the difference that ‘Perfect Sense AQ’ makes to their lives – peers walking to school, people with asthma or runners and cyclists in her city of Leeds.

We are delighted to help support Ava in this next stage of her ambitious vision.

Birdsong Live from Cornish woodland

Nichola Andersen and Swenson Kearey live adjacent to SSSI woodland in Cornwall. The area is home to a large variety of birds including owls, buzzards, woodpeckers; blue, coal, great and long tailed tits; nuthatches and finches and many species from the RSPB Red List. They have been getting out of bed and recording the dawn chorus since the Winter’s Solstice.

As dawn gets earlier and earlier, they wanted to find a way to automate the process. Their idea is to develop and install an automated recording and live streaming system using a Raspberry Pi platform in 4 different Cornwall locations. They will start by building and testing everything (including weather proofing!) in their home location followed by the other 3 sites. Obviously, recording birds isn’t a novel idea but a daily record of birdsong recorded continuously over years from several places across a region, published on-line for others to use is novel and requires automation.

Nichola and Swenson’s aim is for their automated recording and streaming system to help people connect with and enjoy the sounds of nature in Cornwall via audio wherever they live. Research is showing that this can be just as effective as actually being outside and birdsong or the sounds of nature can increase happiness and well-being by up to 30%.

But quality data of this kind collected in selected locations over long periods of time is also of interest to academic, wildlife and ecology researchers so the plan is for this to serve as a Citizen Science project.

As their project progresses, we look forward to hearing birdsong from Cornwall as well as learning what the continuously collected data might tell us about bird populations over time.

We plan to reopen the ‘I’ve got an idea Fund’ for a 4th round in July. Updates will appear here.

About Alison Kidd

Research Psychologist
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