South West schoolchildren lead digital innovation in HackFest

Over 200 students from schools across Devon, including South Devon UTC Great Torrington School, South Molton Community College, The Ilfracombe Academy, St. James School, West Exe School, Teignmouth Community School, Stoke Damerel Community College, Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth School of Creative Arts, are participating in HackFest, a county-wide project for young people to come together to create product prototypes that respond to the issues of the future, led by FabLab Plymouth at Plymouth College of Art with FabLab Devon as partners.

The HackFest project is an exciting new project that will culminate in the winners of the project Challenge Days attending Venturefest South West, a showcase of the most cutting edge innovation and entrepreneurship coming out of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset that will take place on Tuesday 18 October at Sandy Park, Exeter.

Funded by Devon County Council, Heart of the South West LEP, Plymouth Culture and Plymouth City Council, HackFest sees partners from across Devon working together to provide students from all across the county the opportunity to bring innovation to life by designing and building prototypes of their very own products.

Adrian Farmer, Team Leader Year 7 Learners’ Baccalaureate and Engineering teacher at Great Torrington School, said: “HackFest has already been an amazing experience for our pupils, exposing them to new technologies and aspects of design thinking and innovation above and beyond what they experience in the classroom. It is a great opportunity to inspire the next generation of engineers and designers and get them hooked at a young age.”

A large group of students studying on creative Extended Diploma courses from Plymouth College of Art’s new Pre-Degree campus at Palace Court in the city centre are taking part, as well as students from The Red House.

Participating students are gaining vital insight into disruptive technologies and skills to equip them for future careers, through a programme of hands-on, dynamic workshops focused on: Design Thinking; Electronics and Coding; Lean Startup models; 2D Design; 3D Design and Printing; and Laser Cutting.

Paul Wigmore, Design and Technology teacher at West Exe School, said: “Our students had a fantastic time, mixing and learning with other schools. They particularly enjoyed working with the fab lab and the work with 3D printing, electronics, vinyl cutting and laser cutting. They look forward to the next challenge of designing their product as a group, making it and entering the regional competition against the other schools.”

Dan Youlden, Science teacher at Stoke Damerel Community College said: “HackFest allowed our students to develop a range of new skills throughout a fantastic day that has created a real thirst for design and development of new concepts.”

HackFest is not only providing means of stimulating design and digital making among young people, mixing a range of skills from art, design, engineering, science and technology, but it will also provide a hugely valuable youth enterprise and entrepreneurship element to Venturefest South West, inspiring the next generation of innovators.

Following a series of preparatory workshops in Newton Abbot, Great Torrington, Plymouth and Exeter, students working in teams will compete in a series of HackFest Challenge Days, taking place in Exeter, Plymouth and Great Torrington, competing to build the best product prototypes, in response to social issues of the future, through sustainable design and making.

The ‘winners’ of the HackFest project will be given an opportunity to showcase the products they have designed and built during the HackFest Challenge Days, at Venturefest South West, within the Innovation Showcase. Possibly the most exciting part for students will be pitching their prototypes and ideas to investors, innovators and entrepreneurs, hungry to develop new talent and support tomorrow’s digital leaders.

HackFest Project Team Leader, Oliver Raud, from Plymouth College of Art, said: “We’re very pleased with the success that HackFest has met already and it has been an amazing experience watching students aged 13 to 19 coming together from across the county to learn digital skills that will help them to succeed in tomorrow’s workplace. I can’t wait to see the solutions that they come up with to the social issues we’ve highlighted in the HackFest Challenge Days. Seeing this kind of digital innovation and forward thinking in the South West shows just how much our students can achieve when they’re encouraged to embrace design, creativity and new digital technologies like the equipment housed in our Fab Labs.”