For the second year running, Fujitsu (in collaboration with partners Intel, Brocade and Kyocera) have run their Operation Innovation competition for teams of sixth-form students in Fujitsu Education Ambassador schools across the UK. Last week, a team of four Y13 students: Oliver Barnes, Amelia Cockran, Joseph Fasogbon, and George Waterman, headed off to the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park (home of UK code-breaking efforts during World War 2) to compete in the finals of this competition. The brief was to generate and develop an innovative use of Fujitsu’s Internet of Things technology portfolio within one of three key areas: construction, education, or manufacturing. The Leigh UTC team wrote a 14-page proof of value document in support of their concept: Open.ii, a novel use of Fujitsu’s augmented reality head-mounted display to assist students with special educational requirements within a normal classroom environment, thereby reducing the need for specialist staff support.
The team’s report, as well as a carefully crafted presentation, was submitted at the end of the last module, and they were invited to the finals (with seven other teams from an initial field of 15) to present their idea to a panel of five Fujitsu and Intel executives. Aside from the presentation itself (and challenging questions from the judges afterwards), the teams were free for most of the day to practice, talk to Fujitsu interns and apprentices, and look around the museum (which included a selection of old games consoles and a very popular Crazy Taxi arcade machine). After lunch, The Leigh UTC team had the opportunity to tour a fully rebuilt Colossus computer (the first digital, programmable, electronic computer ever built), 10 of which were used during World War 2 to crack the Lorenz code, which German high command and army units used to encrypt messages throughout the war.
After all eight finalists had completed their presentations, and the judges finally finished deliberating, the prizes were awarded. The judges noted that the overall standard had jumped substantially in this year’s competition (enough that last year’s winners did not even make it to the finals this time around), and then presented trophies for the top three teams. Although the Leigh UTC team did not win first prize (which included a trip to a major Fujitsu conference this week in Germany and the opportunity to present their proposal to a senior Fujitsu executive), they were awarded third place and complimented on their exceedingly high level of teamwork (both throughout the presentation and in a previous video-conference with some of the judges in September). They returned to the school, still shocked by how successful they had been, bringing back a trophy for the school and a wealth of transferable skills and experience to enhance their CVs going forward. We are hopeful that Fujitsu will continue the competition next year, and aim to go all the way to Germany next time around!