Nurturing tech in Stoke-on-Trent‏

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Hundreds of young people, tech enthusiasts and local businesses had a chance to try out cutting-edge technologies during the WaveMaker taster sessions at the Mitchell Arts Centre on February 6 and 7. The visitors’ votes for the most popular technologies reflected increasing interest in creative coding, Minecraft, smart materials, lasers and LEDs, astrophysics, music creation, 3D printing and virtual reality.

The WaveMaker project, sponsored by Comic Relief, Nominet and Robbie Williams’ Give it Sum fund, aims to make digital technology, coding and engineering more appealing to young people in Stoke-on-Trent. Robbie Williams’ mother, Jan Williams, also visited the WaveMaker taster sessions to show her support for the initiative.

WaveMaker aims to inspire and help the new generation of engineers, coders, creators and makers to understand technology and use it in exciting and innovative ways. The project brings together local tech and education companies bITjAM, Staffordshire University, Potteries Hackspace and the Unity Foundation, with the purpose of creating a permanent technology hub in the city centre.

“We want the WaveMaker space to be accessible, which is why we’re looking for a central location,” explained Ben McManus, coordinator of the WaveMaker project and creative director of bITjAM. We also want it to be interesting, so if Minecraft, robots or Raspberry Pi is what gets young people’s imagination going, we want to turn them into learning tools and find a creative use for the technologies.

Finally, we want to encourage collaboration – it’s all about putting the makers, the coders and the creative minds in Stoke-on-Trent in one room and giving them the latest technologies to play with. The result is bound to be phenomenal and equip young people with technical skills that will boost their future careers.”

“The energy and enthusiasm at the WaveMaker taster sessions was impressive,”

commented Tom Ward, founder of Technology Camp and trainer for several workshops that took place at the WaveMaker event.

“Children as young as eight were incredibly keen to find out more about complex technologies like LEDs and smart materials. The appetite for technology definitely exists in Stoke-on-Trent.”

The WaveMaker consortium would love to hear feedback from local community, schools and businesses regarding the technologies about which they would like to find out more. To get in touch or keep up to date with upcoming events, visit www.wavemaker.org.uk or follow the group on Twitter @wavemakerstoke.