January was an incredibly intense month at Shake Your Power. We were invited by the Department of International Trade to exhibit at Bett at the Excel Center. Bett is the largest education technology exhibition in the UK and I’m sure it’s also one of the biggest in the world, if not the biggest. So, naturally we were very pressured to put on a good exhibition.
Last year we created the educational version of SPARK (maraca that generates electricity and can charge a mobile phone), and we tested with many students at UCL Academy in London. The educational version is a DIY kit where students put together the basic electronics of SPARK, design their sound and in the process they learn about magnetic induction, the basics of electricity and an intro to electronics.
DIY Spark Music Torch
The kit comes with a comic that we developed with an amazing artist, Amrit Birdi, and we created a two part publication. On one hand the comic is an action story and on the other it is an educational tool that helps students step by step.
Sample pages of the comic: Gaia and the Water Volcanoes
So we went to Bett with this new product.
For those of you who haven’t been to Bett ever, it’s a monster of an exhibition. It’s attended by about 40,000 people from 138 countries and there are about 600 exhibitors there.
F92 Shake Your Power stand at Bett Show 2017
The exhibition runs for 4 days, from Wednesday to Saturday. The first day was dead, and I mean DEAD. We had 7 visitors to our stand… 7. One for every hour we were there. It was tragic! But everyone in our section seemed to be somewhat in the same position. Having said that we did sell one 🙂
We went home at the end of the day deflated and knackered. I almost wanted to skip the next few days because I couldn’t bare another day like that. We were a small fish in a massive ocean.
Thursday came and it was the opposite. We were swamped with people. It was great because we were finally able to talk about it demo it and see whether people engaged with it, if they really got it, etc.
Most people that stopped that day were teachers and school leaders so they were looking for hands on tools for students to learn while making. It was interesting because so many of the exhibitors were focusing on digital products, big screens, VR systems, software, etc, and yet a lot of teachers were keen to look for DIY solutions to show the principles they were teaching in class. So it was good for us to see their reactions.
Friday came and it was a different experience. The morning was slow, but by now we understood the rhythm and were expecting that. The afternoon was really busy again and we got two major leads. One to get our product to children in refugee camps through the world’s biggest organization, and another to potentially start a partnership with one of the top two computer and software manufacturers. (not naming them yet!)
So, it was a rollercoaster from beginning to end and I’m glad I stayed for the ride!
There is an area in the exhibition called the STEAM village and it’s all about showcasing products that support the steam curriculum (science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths). We were far away from that area but we should’ve been there because what we do is encourage science, tech, engineering and maths through music.
I feel the arts is the methodology that helps the other disciplines be more creative and deal with uncertainty in a better way. The arts help bridge the gaps between these disciplines and broaden the understanding of new data.
Since the arts rely on a much more instinctual and perceptual understanding of reality, when joined with the sciences, they provide a wider vision, a much more creative approach to problem solving and as they are not bound by the rules and methodologies of the other disciplines, they allow for ‘what if’ scenarios that can lead to massive leaps in innovation. This is the future of education, and it’s the only way students will be equipped to tackle the changes we will face in the decades to come. Without the flexibility, openness, multidisciplinarity and creativity that the arts bring to the table, the other disciplines will have a hard time adapting.
So, would we do it again next year?
Yes, but at the STEAM village, where we belong 🙂