Stoke-on-Trent’s Qube of opportunities
On Friday March 7, digital innovation company bITjAM officially opened the Innovation Qube – a unique research and development space in Stoke-on-Trent, in partnership with the YMCA North Staffordshire. The launch was marked by a ribbon cutting ceremony, performed by Lord Mayor Sheila Pitt, a student competition in the morning and a business networking opportunity in the afternoon.
The Innovation Qube is a unique research and development space accessible to young people in the region. It will become the home of a series of workshops, seminars and hacklabs, which will equip young people with useful skills for their future careers, a profound understanding of technology and a deepened curiosity and creativity.
bITjAM will use the venue to help Staffordshire businesses take a bolder approach to technology and use it more readily in their marketing, management and processes.
To encourage young people to look at technology in a more practical way, bITjAM teamed up with global electronics-distribution company Farnell element 14 and invited students from local middle and secondary schools, colleges and universities to submit their suggestions for using technology creatively. The entries were judged on how innovative and fun they were, but practicality and style also played an essential role.
Birches Head Academy students Josh Allen, Kieran Firkins and Aiden Cole were the day’s big winners. The pupils received a tech kit worth £200 and a personal research and development session in the Innovation Qube, provided by bITjAM’s team of experts.
Second prize went to Birmingham University student Cameron Wood and the third to Zahra Jamati, a Congleton High School Sixth form student. They also received a tech kit worth £200. The prizes were provided by the competition sponsor, Farnell element 14.
“I was impressed at how practical and creative all the entries were,” enthused Dr. Helen Meese, Head of Engineering in Society at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, a competition judge.
“The fact that our decision was so difficult to make is very encouraging – it means the young people of Staffordshire already have a thirst for knowledge and an interest in technology. bITjAM’s Innovation Qube is exactly the type of space that is needed in Stoke-on-Trent at the moment. I’m certain it will compete on a national level with similar centres in Birmingham, Manchester and London.”
After the competition, students and members of the business community were invited to try out the cutting edge technologies installed in the Innovation Qube. The Occulus Rift virtual reality headset was the most popular, followed closely by the Leap Motion controller, the NeuroSky Mindwave Mobile brainwave technology, the eBeam interactive whiteboard and the 3D printer.
“I’m delighted to see the bITjAM Innovation Qube being launched in the city,” explained Rob Flello, Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South. “It offers a great opportunity for young people who are interested in technology and design, giving them the chance to exchange ideas and experiences, use cutting-edge technologies – like 3D printers and virtual reality sets – and learn how to turn their interests and hobbies into productive, useful projects.
“This is precisely the sort of activity I want to see more of in the City. I believe the Qube has the chance to become a hub for innovative thinkers, while also encouraging young people to develop skills and abilities that will help them in their careers.”
“We hope the Innovation Qube will become a hub for creative and curious young people and businesses,” explained Carl Plant, technical director and founder of bITjAM. “We know Staffordshire has a lot to offer in terms of brainpower, talent and ambition. We’re very keen to tap into this potential and help the region develop and grow.”