#STEMspiration for all of us

We’re in March and the chances are that you’ve broken your resolutions already, as have I, my landlady, my boss and my cat. The number one New Year’s resolution according to Statista is to eat healthier, followed by getting more exercise, with spending less and saving more coming in at 3rd.

But what about if we tried a resolution that was a bit different? We’re all for kicking off a new trend. This includes not beating ourselves up about the fact we picked up a chocolate bar on January 3rd – let’s face it, it’s too cold to diet – and starting again when we’re feeling more inspired. Let’s call it the #resolutionrevamp.

But more than this, we think it’s about time we all took a leaf out of Ann Makosinki’s book. Who you may ask? Well this bright spark was just 15 when she invented the hollow flashlight. The idea came to her when a friend in the Phillipines explained she couldn’t do her homework due to no access to electricity. Her recommendation, directed at teens at the TEDxTeen conference, was to “Pursue whatever you want to do…anything you dream of is possible but you have to start and work on it even if it’s just 20 minutes a day.” Advice meant for adolescents or not, I think we could all apply this to our daily lives. Yes, twenty-first century life is busy but without time for creativity, innovation and learning, our world wouldn’t be anywhere near as technically advanced as it is now.

It’s imperative that the next generation get stuck in when it comes to STEM. Skills such as HTML coding, software engineering and robot programming are just some of the many sought after abilities that employees are already in need of, and the future seems set to develop this demand even further.

But what about the rest of us? An idea which is echoed by our blog in April 2015 “Corporate Creativity: The Must Have Of The Digital Age” is that you’re never too young to learn a new skill. Why not make your 2018 resolution to have mastered the art of website design using user-friendly platforms such as Wordpress? Or even better, try and invent something that will make waves in this digital era.


Filling the STEM gap with the Micro:bit

As more and more jobs centre around digital technology, and the 'internet of things' becomes less of a buzzword and more of a reality, the pressure is growing for the education system to ensure the next generation of employees are prepared for the developing demands of the workplace.

We blogged about 'Technology, the frenemy of tomorrow's workforce' back in November 2014, but in the last few weeks, one of our clients has been involved in a project to 3D print a steel bridge over one of Amsterdam’s famous canals using robots and Autodesk software. The software is a project in itself.

The project will see the robots working autonomously on-site in much the same way as human construction workers, with the aim being to demonstrate the applicability of the technology to larger structural projects. If successful, the project could radically transform the face of the construction industry, with robots becoming a regular feature on future building sites.

The software used to run the robots is just one example of how the future of making things is dependent on people having the necessary STEM skills to lead these innovations. This reminded us again of how important it is for generation Y to be engaged in technology in both a creative and stimulating way.

In June of this year, Cisco CEO and life science graduate Phil Smith told the Telegraph, "The internet of everything is going to change the world. We'll have pills that can monitor how the body is absorbing them and cars that know when it is going to rain. We'll see a sweep of digitisation throughout every aspect of life, which means that if you know how technology works you're going to find it much easier to understand almost any industry in the future."

There has been much in the media about how the UK education system is failing to encourage its students to engage with STEM subjects, and thus hindering not only their future employability but also the UK's ability to compete on a global stage. Thankfully, there have been a few projects initiated by corporations recently, such as Barclays' Code Playground, and 'Make it Digital', the latest idea from the BBC which will see pocket-sized computers called Micro:bits provided to millions of UK students aged between the ages of 11 and 12.

This is the BBC's most ambitious education initiative since the 1980s, when the BBC Micro introduced children to computing for the very first time, some of which have gone on to be pioneers of programming. Take, for example, David Darling, who started coding games at home on the Micro and now runs Kwalee, a smartphone game developer. Another, David Braben, co-developed Elite, a space trading computer game which has now evolved into the highly popular Elite: Dangerous. David Braben is also co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charity founded in 2009 to promote basic computer science in schools.

In much the same way, the BBC Micro:bit will enable today’s students to code, customise and control, spark their creativity and allow them to bring their digital ideas to life. Students will be able to create something that gives instant gratification, whilst the computer has the potential to handle much greater complexity if students wish to develop their skills further.  Head of BBC Learning, Sinead Rocks explained in May, "There's no real way to tell you what it does - because that will be entirely dependent on how the children who get one choose to program it."

With a wide variety of features such as 25 red LEDs, an on-board motion detector, and Bluetooth Smart Technology, the Micro:bit is able to interact with its surroundings, such as phones, tablets, and cameras. It can be programmed from a computer, tablet or mobile phone via the BBC's soon-to-launch Micro:bit website.

Other tools in the Make It Digital scheme include the Technobabble "digital maker kit" which allows children to create their own computer games. The Make It Digital tour will also run throughout the summer, visiting 13 locations across the UK and providing opportunities to learn more about the digital world and coding.

We're excited to see how the Micro:bit and the Make it Digital initiative from the BBC will encourage the digital geniuses of the future, and hope the pocket-sized device lands in the hands of the next Justin Mateen (the inventor of Tinder), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) or Leah Busque (TaskRabbit).


Corporate Creativity: The Must Have of the Digital Age

Back in November 2014 we discussed how technology is the frenemy of tomorrow’s workforce. We mentioned how some jobs are likely to be overtaken by digital developments, whilst others, often more creative in nature, are probably a lot safer, as long as we make an effort as a nation to brush up on our techy skills such as SEO, HTML and digital content design to facilitate our ideas.

But what do you do if you’re not a creative? Taking our predictions to the extremes of a futuristic nihilistic blockbuster, this would leave a lot of people starving on the streets. Equally, if you are a creative you know that the juices are exhaustible. Some brilliant writers have suffered the infamous writer’s block such as Neil Gaiman, Hilary Mantel and Philip Pullman, yet continue to write bestsellers. Whether you believe you’re imaginative or not, we can tell you how to inspire yourself, put pen to paper, paintbrush to canvas…or more appropriately, fingertips to keyboard or mouse to computer screen. Here are our six top tips.

1. Expose yourself to new things. Whether it’s a museum, art gallery, theatre performance, poetry evening, trip to a new city or country, think of these as original stimuli which will no doubt create a fresh flow of ideas.

2. Always be looking. Whether we realise it or not, we are surrounded by inspiration. Take advertising for example. Conservative estimates reckon that the average person will be aware of 76 advertisements in the course of a day, whether they be hoardings, TV, radio or online ads. Many of these can be used to generate ideas that you can use, whether it be developing catchy headlines or developing new ideas for your own marketing campaigns.

3. Try geo-doodling. Geo-doodling involves walking without direction. Let your feet determine where you go, and instead use your mind to really absorb what is going on around you. Listen to the noises, examine the architecture of the buildings, smell the fragrances of the environment. We tend to rush around on a day-to-day basis, and underappreciate stimuli which wait on every corner.

4. Don’t judge yourself. Instead, just get writing, designing, brain-storming, or playing. You might think what you’ve created is terrible, but someone else might really appreciate it. And if it really is terrible, then you can consider it a step towards something fantastic. It’s a work in progress.

5. Meet new people. Fresh conversation, new faces and sharing original experiences will open up a whole new dimension for your creative masterpiece.

6. Spend time with children. Children have no limits to their imaginations. Remember when you used to be able to entertain yourself for hours on your own, inventing characters and scenarios and thoroughly believing they were real. When the ability to do this died, it didn’t really die. Reawaken it by playing with young children. Their freedom to express ideas will help prompt you to do the same.

At Armitage Communications we are often in need of creative inspiration. As content curators, public relations managers and campaign executioners, we have to think on our feet and conceive original ideas which will create a desired impact. What do you do at work or in leisure time to inspire your muse? Let us know by tweeting @ArmitageComm incorporating hashtag #CorpCreative.