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The Corporation

Posted: 17/11/16

Students pitch creative concepts in digital Dragons’ Den

Creative solutions to some of society’s biggest issues, from obesity to unemployment, were devised by computer science students at West Nottinghamshire College as part of a nationwide competition.

Winning students (front, from left) Jake Dolby, Louie Shirley, Ryan Eason, Matthew Johnson and Matt Knaggs, flanked by fellow students and ‘dragons’ Candice Dean, Sarah Nelson, Wayne Swiffin, Steve McAlone and Dave Hartshorne.

A group of 30 students on the BTEC level 3 software development course were tasked with taking on digital-related challenges and presenting their concepts to a ‘Dragons’ Den’ of industry experts.

The competition was part of Digital Day 2016 – a national initiative on Tuesday 15 November that saw digital professionals head back to school or college for the day, to inspire students and give them an insight into careers in the sector. 

Leading Mansfield-based digital marketing agency Dijitul was assigned as the college’s industry partner, whose director Dave Hartshorne gave a talk about his company and the sector, before students broke into mixed year groups and began working on their ideas.

They could choose from one of three tasks set by national sponsors Cancer Research UK, Standard Life and TATA Communications – from devising digital methods of making young people more aware of obesity, designing a fun game to get young people interested in earning or saving money, to developing a technology-based solution to problems affecting disadvantaged communities.

All six teams presented their concepts to Mr Hartshorne and fellow ‘Dragons’ Sarah Nelson, manager of Mansfield BID, Wayne Swiffin, owner of Mandatum PR, Candice Dean, digital marketing executive at Confetti Media Group, and Steve McAlone, the college’s head of creative industries and digital technologies.

Winning group was ‘ABCD’ made up of Matthew Johnson, Louie Shirley, Jake Dolby, Ryan Eason (all 16) and Matt Knaggs (18), whose idea for a mobile phone app called Recruit Me, to help people find work by notifying users of job vacancies that matched their skills and experience –thereby reducing unemployment across the area – particularly impressed the judges.

Matthew, from Sutton, said: “It was a tough test but we worked really hard as a team, everything was a group decision and we put 100% into it. Fortunately, all the effort paid off.”

Fellow team member Louie, from Mansfield, said: “We only had a couple of hours to formulate our ideas and get all the information together before giving a two-minute presentation, so it was definitely challenging. But it was great to hear we’d won.”

Mr Hartshorne, who has more than 12 years’ experience in the digital sector, said: “The students were fantastic and worked together extremely well. I was amazed by their team-work, initiative, and the innovative ideas they came up with. They’re a credit to the computer science department and the college as a whole.

“Picking a winner was very difficult – every single idea was commercially-viable – but the winning team’s concept really stood out and deserved to win.

“Challenges such as Digital Day, that bring industry professionals into the college and expose students to real-life projects, are exactly what is needed in education today.

“There’s nothing more engaging than these types of activities. It’s been a great partnership with the college; the facilities are great, the tutors have been fantastic and the young people have really enjoyed it.”

Trudi Dean, curriculum manager for computer science, said: “Digital Day was an overwhelming success for our students and I’m so proud of their achievements. They were inspired by the tasks and showed they can put their learning into practice in ‘real-world’ settings.

“Furthermore, working with Dijitul has given them valuable support from an industry expert and developed their employability skills, which will help them in their future careers.”  

The best entries will be entered into the national Digital Day competition, with the chance to win various prizes.

Digital Day is organised by BIMA (British Interactive Media Association), an industry body representing the UK’s digital sector.