Longitude Explorer Prize won by Hampshire school children

Pupils from Southlands School have won £10,000 for their school with a badge that communicates the emotions of autistic users

Run by Nesta and supported by IBM, the prize seeks to inspire innovation by challenging school students to use technology to tackle a contemporary challenge.

Pupils from Southlands School, Lymington, have won a £10,000 prize for a prototype that helps people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder communicate. The badge, worn on the wrist, changes colour to reflect the emotions of its owner based on a number of sensors that measure stress, heart rate, and speech and tone emotion.

Run and funded by innovation foundation Nesta, the Longitude Explorer Prize 2017 set out to challenge school pupils to use the Internet of Things (IoT) – devices connected via the internet – to tackle a health issue.

More than 60 teams entered the prize and since April, ten finalists have worked with mentors from IBM and Digital Catapult to build prototypes that tackle everything from air pollution to childhood obesity and mental health.

Schools received access to software from IBM and bespoke support with IoT connectivity and hardware from Digital Catapult to develop their ideas.

Southlands School is a specialist Asperger’s and complex needs school. The team of pupils wanted to create a device that would support their peers in communicating more effectively. The IoT software application and sensor/display system detects and flags the presence of stress and anxiety in the user. It then uses biometric and geolocation sensor information combined with big data analysis to track, record and analyse patterns in the user’s daily life to relay how they are feeling to pupils themselves and teaching staff.

Young people have boundless creativity and we want them to realise they can take an active role in imagining how technology can be used to innovate and shape the future.

James Callan, 14, Southlands School pupil in the winning team, says, “People with Asperger Syndrome have difficulty communicating their emotions to others around them. They find it hard to recognise how they are feeling and why they are feeling a certain way. Our device can allow solutions to be put in place to enable them to manage this on a daily basis. We learned a lot about the whole process of creating a tech product, from designing and selling to marketing. We’d really like to continue developing the product. 

Tris Dyson at Nesta and on behalf of the Longitude Explorer Prize, says, “Working together to tackle the problems being faced by society is an increasingly important skill to teach young people to prepare them for the future. Young people have boundless creativity and we want them to realise they can take an active role in imagining how technology can be used to innovate and shape the future.”

The ten finalists were judged by an expert panel on a range of criteria that included innovation, data use, and real world application.

The judging panel included Andy Stanford-Clark, Chief Technology Officer for IBM UK and Ireland, Caroline Gorski, Head of IoT and Digital Manufacturing at Digital Catapult, and Jonny Vroom, Innovation Lead – IoT & Distributed Ledger at Innovate UK.

Finalists were given access to resources including:

IBM Watson and IBM Bluemix – artificial data programmes enabling young people to create working prototypes of their apps; Digital Catapult’s Things Connected Network – enabling teams to develop exciting and novel IoT products and services; and MultiTech GWs & SODAQ board – hardware to collect data with bespoke technical support from Digital Catapult. 

The first Longitude Explorer Prize was launched by Nesta in 2014 and focused on geolocation.