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Students rise to ‘big data’ challenge

Young engineers from UTC Reading have been exploring new ways of using ‘big data’ to improve daily life
The students were set the challenge by Peter Brett Associates LLP, a leading development and infrastructure consultancy which is also one of the school’s lead industry partners.
Since September, 350 students have been working in teams to develop new ideas that rely on big data – a term that refers to large and complex data sets – to improve services in UK cities. Interactive transport and virtual carers were among the ideas suggested.
Students have been mentored throughout the project by professionals from Peter Brett Associates, Prudential and the University of Reading. 
Representatives from these organisations, as well as from Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership, were tasked with judging the final projects on Monday (14 December), at an Engineering Ideas Fair held at the school. The winners were announced at a special prize giving on Wednesday (16 December).
The winning team, FRED (Fast Response Emergency Drones) was chosen for the “enormous amount of effort they put in; their research, their development work, their marketing,” according to Peter Brett Associates Partner Martin Dix, one of the judges. “It was a creative idea with a huge amount of benefit.”
The premise of FRED is to operate strategically placed drones to assist with medical emergencies; identifying the number of people injured in an incident and providing diagnosis.
Joanne Harper, UTC Reading Principal said:
“With the continuing growth in smart technology applications, this project aimed to encourage students to think creatively about developing new ways of collecting and using big data. 
“It provided an important opportunity for our students to experience a real-world industry project and consider how their technical skills will transfer to their future careers.”
Year 12 student Skye De Beer Kotze said:
“I really enjoyed the experience. Although it involved making some difficult decisions, it helped me learn about thinking logically and the best ways to explain my thoughts and ideas to the rest of a team.”
Year 10 student Ridwan Abdin said:
“We’ve learnt how to work well with each other, rather than going off in different directions. Because we worked together, we’ve managed to come up with an idea that could be implemented in real life.”
“Our work with UTC Reading students is hugely rewarding,” said Martin Dix, “and it has been a real privilege to watch this group of talented youngsters produce such a high-calibre series of ideas. Well done to FRED, and to all the students who took part.”
Bill Hicks, Head of Stakeholder Engagement at Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, said:
“Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) aims to foster sustainable economic growth in Berkshire through the implementation of a Strategic Economic Plan. In particular we need to raise the quality and profile of STEM provision to ensure that STEM education responds to the needs of innovative, forward thinking companies, both large and small, which are based here.  
“This will drive the development of a young workforce, which can seize the job opportunities that are emerging through our tech-based businesses and support the growth ambitions of our area. The Big Data Project delivered by PBA with the support of Prudential is the perfect example of how business can contribute in a new era of employer-led learning.”
  • Active Learning
  • Microsoft
  • Cisco
  • University of Reading
  • Network Rail
  • Peter Brett