The Building Blocks of EdTech

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Described as the "Lego set for the Internet of Things", SAM is a wireless electronics kit that aims to empower the students and creatives of today to become the industry leaders of tomorrow.

Joachim Horn founded SAM Labs in 2013 after becoming intrigued by the hype surrounding electronics & coding, yet frustrated by the process of making it work in reality. He decided to simplify electronics and coding the same way computers were simplified in the 70s: beyond traditional engineering and into the hands of designers who want to develop human-centred solutions. 

During this year's London Tech Week, Joachim will present at the RE•WORK Future of Education workshop, on 20 June, exploring how technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) will impact innovation. I asked him a some questions ahead of the event to learn more.

Tell us a bit more about SAM Labs and your mission.
SAM is for those with little technical background or knowledge to learn about electronics, the basics of coding and programming while exploring the IoT. With SAM wireless blocks and our app, SAM Space, we encourage students, parents, and teachers alike to get involved in tech. With the visual language in our app and interactivity of SAM, there is no end to open ended play!

Our kits inspire students today, to create their world tomorrow. By encouraging DIY projects, STEM thinking and by teaching Boolean logic to kids, SAM users will be able to control, and not just consume, technology in the future. By using a simple app they are able to visually program the wireless blocks and get instant feedback from what they are doing. Different apps within the the software allow them to further customise and write lines of code to make more advanced creations.

Who is your target audience?
Our target audience is made up of kids between the ages of 7 and 14, with their parents between the ages of 35-54, as well as educators and schools. We aim to be accessible and promote learning to anyone, via gender- and age-neutral blocks - SAM is for everyone to learn together to achieve individualistic, peer, and economic growth in the future. 

What problem are you trying to address?
There is a shortage of engineers coming out of the UK. Weighed up against high-growth developing countries like China and India, our numbers pale in comparison. By encouraging students from a young age to build a better world with SAM, we are shaping technological advancement and encouraging prospective engineers to stick to their goals.

The SAM kit fosters physical motor skills with cognitive development, through play. There are many kits out there that bolster one or the other, but by having a kit that allows you to use both software and hardware, understand whole integrated systems. Not many kits out there offer rechargeable, wireless, and reusable solutions for people to start inventing and creating their own products.

If you look at our range of kits, there are different starting activities, with a step-by-step guide to get you creating. SAM Space also offers integrations with a variety of applications. Beyond that, the Soft SAMs such as custom code, logic gates, and timing controls within SAM teach students the values of truth and falsity in technology through trial and error exploration.

What partners have been essential to your progress?
Think Big, Kickstarter, Microsoft Ventures and Imperial Innovations have been essential to our growth. Secondly, a special thanks to everyone who support us at events, purchase our kits and are hungry to learn more about the IoT, electronics and coding; you are shaping SAM Labs today, tomorrow and in future.

What is the biggest challenge to implementing SAM Labs into the classroom?
It's hard to get kids to stop playing and learning with SAM. We have the beautiful challenge of coming up with new activities to do everyday.

What advancements are we most likely to see in the edtech space in the next 5 years?
The IoT will have a transforming effect on edtech. An increasing number of students will be learning outside of the classroom while remaining connected. Internationally, students and teachers will be able to share what they have learned through cooperative learning. Learning by playing on tangible devices will become more important as "death by PowerPoint" will no longer appeal to Generation Tech.

Joachim Horn will be speaking at RE•WORK The Future of Education, taking place in London on 20 June, as a part of London Technology Week. Other speakers include Joanna Bersin, Head of Education, Kano; Ian Fordham, CEO, Edtech UK; William Owen, Founding Partner & Strategy Director, Made by Many; and Lola Canamero, Head of the Embodied Emotion, Cognition & (Inter) Action Lab, University of Hertfordshire. For more information and to register, please visit the event page here.

We will also be holding RE•WORK Future of Food Summit during London Tech Week on 21 June - view more details and the speaker line-up for the summit here.

Future of Education EdTech Hardware IoT Maker Movement Wireless Connectivity London Technology Week Coding


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