DATA Playing with young people

We are here at the first young person’s DATA Play event at Devonport High School for Boys. This event has been organised by the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) and they have done a brilliant job of setting up the space in DATA Play’s trademark, funky style.

Today’s event is going to be seeing young people from years 8 and 12 from three schools around Plymouth (Devonport High School for Boys, Tor Bridge High and Plymstock School) looking at ways to utilise open data in ways to improve the city and see what we exciting things we can do with tech. There’s a buzz around the room as the i-DAT guys from Plymouth University start unboxing their home made tech, currently demonstrating some orb that seems to be emitting an electronic tune.


We’ve just come to end of the first session of the day and already we’ve had some brilliant ideas coming up. The guys are all out enjoying a snack so it’s time for a quick round up on what’s been discussed this morning!

Digital is more important than writing or even the invention of printing

We kicked off with an introductory talk from Claire and Jules from RIO who did a bit of housekeeping and gave an overview of what the day would entail. Jonathan then talked about ‘digital’ and its many uses in fields as diverse as agriculture and sport. The takeaway quote was that digital is more important than writing or even the invention of printing.

Everyone then split into groups around four tables where there was a quick discussion of what the guys want to get out of today and any potential career plans (video game designer seems to be a popular choice! Plymouth City Council’s Hannah then introduced the concept of what open data is and the sort of data that the council hold. On the tables around the room there are cards with topics on them, transport, health etc and the guys were asked to come up with ideas, no matter how zany, on how data and tech could be used in those fields.

We had some great responses to this task. One table brought up tech such as the fitbit, which collects your vital statistics data. We asked whether this data should be open to everyone. The general consensus was that it should be open, but only to the right people and only for the right reason. But who are the right people? And what are the right reasons? There was also conversation about stress. What is making young people stressed? Can we collect data about stress and use it to help young people overcome it?

Data about cinemas and how far away many people are from them. Apps to get people together to watch films. Data collected by police, fire and ambulance services to introduce ‘safety schools’ in areas where these services are used frequently and many more fantastic ideas. A brilliant day so far, the afternoon is looking promising!

So it is lunchtime and everyone’s tucking into some well-earned lunch after a busy morning of ideas and brainstorming. We’ve been blown away by some of the creativity shown this morning and there’s definitely a lot of food for thought.


After our break, we regrouped to our four tables and the task was to come up with ideas, hardware and software that could be used to utilise data. There have been a couple that have really caused a stir around the room. One involves an app that collects data on people’s use of CO2 and in a social media environment gain points depending on your personal reduction of its use. These points can be banked and used for rewards, for example money toward an electric car. Electric cars were also brought up again with an idea for a map of electric charging points around the city. Also could people offer electric charging from their homes?

Another great idea was the collection of CO2 data from points around the city. It was pointed out that limestone is used to absorb CO2 so if a planning application is submitted in an area of high CO2, could one of the planning considerations be that the building needs to use limestone in its construction? There were ideas about health problem predictions, smart parks and new and innovative ways to interact with your environment.


Our last session of the day focused on cementing ideas that had previously been discussed as well as the i-DAT guys taking a group off downstairs to look at their gizmos. The ‘community app’ which got so much interest was looked at in detail and initial ideas were expanded upon. It really does sound like a fantastic idea. People would use the app to bank ‘community points’ by carrying out tasks around their neighbourhoods (litter picking, reporting antisocial behaviour etc) in order to improve their neighbourhood score. These points could be banked and either pooled with others in the group towards community projects or used individually for rewards such as entertainment vouchers or bus tickets. I think we may have found some future entrepreneurs!

There was also discussion about health tech, which developed from an earlier discussion. There was talk of a ‘health heads up display’, an idea which seemed to by a hybrid of a Fitbit and Google Glass, with added snazzy features! In true business style, the group had even listed the disadvantages of their idea as well as its positives! We had a neighbourhood safety checker, with the code actually written in Python, which would take in data such as ambulance response times and crime statistics and give you a high, medium or low neighbourhood score.

By the end of the day, we had so many amazing ideas floating round that there was a genuine buzz. We had some great feedback from the group and there is a sense that we have sold these young people on the possibilities of open data. What we have taken away from the event, is that DATA Play is about much more than the Council’s data, it is about all the data we can get our grubby mitts on, and as long as it’s in one place, people are going to use it. It has also shown us that we have some very, very talented young folk in Plymouth and that needs to be nurtured. We’re so grateful for the schools for taking part!
That’s all for now.

Email DATAPlay@plymouth.gov.uk with your comments, we’re always grateful for feedback! See you all at the next event in February, but until then, happy playing!

27 November 2015

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