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Oracle Academy backs Bloodhound educational drive

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The Bloodhound Project has received a boost for its educational programme, geared to interest school children in science and maths.

The Bloodhound Project, which will see an attempt made on the world landspeed record at Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape, has received a major boost for its educational programme, geared to interest school children in science and maths. The aim of the programme, to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, has resonated strongly with software giant Oracle, which is already the digital partner to the project.

At the Oracle Open World conference in San Francisco this week, Oracle president of product development Thomas Kurian announced that the Oracle Academy will join forces with Bloodhound SSC Education, a non-profit organisation established by the Bloodhound Project. The collaboration connects Oracle Academy’s computer science curriculum with the technology behind the Bloodhound supersonic car project, which aims to smash the 1,000 mph world land speed record.

Earlier this year, Oracle announced that the Bloodhound Project had selected Oracle Cloud to collect, analyze, and broadcast data from more than 500 real-time sensors installed on the Bloodhound Supersonic Car to classrooms around the world. This information gives students a detailed look at how technology is rocketing the world’s fastest land vehicle towards 1,000 mph, as well as providing Bloodhound engineers with valuable data to continually optimize the supersonic car’s performance.

At Oracle Open World, Richard Noble, director of the the Bloodhound Project, told the audience during a keynote session on Tuesday morning that the educational project had been partly motivated by the success of the Apollo manned space program in the USA in inspiring a generation of scientists.

Oracle Academy and the Bloodhound Education Programme will team up to make available two projects designed to help students build engineering knowledge, data analysis, and Java programming skills. The projects will leverage Oracle Academy’s Alice and Greenfoot workshops, introducing new content and data from the Bloodhound Project.

The Alice-based project challenges students to create an animated virtual version of the Bloodhound team’s desert camp. In the Greenfoot-based project, students learn how to adjust engineering variables of the car design and test their impact on speed. The Bloodhound-themed Oracle Academy projects will be available to classrooms and computing clubs in120 countries.

“Students still need a strong base in maths and physics, but this is a digital world and it’s equally important that they develop a taste for computer skills if they are to thrive in the modern workforce,” said Chris Fairhead, Chairman of the Bloodhound Education Programme. “Through our alliance with Oracle Academy, we have added this crucial piece of the puzzle to our education programme and are already seeing a great deal of interest from the teachers and schools we work with.”

Over the next three years, Oracle Academy will train 150 of Bloodhound’s volunteer teachers on Alice and Greenfoot, enabling them to effectively integrate these learning tools into STEM curricula and help students build coding skills. These resources and trainings will also be freely available to teachers worldwide, as part of Oracle Academy’s mission is to advance computer science education globally.

“At Oracle Academy, we are thrilled to team with the Bloodhound Education Programme and bring the excitement of the Bloodhound supersonic car to the 3.5 million students we reach yearly,” said Alison Derbenwick Miller, Oracle Academy Vice President. “We look forward to furthering our collaboration with the Bloodhound Education Programme, and advancing our commitment to prepare students for college and career-readiness in the 21st century.”

Project Bloodhound

The Bloodhound Project is an international education initiative focussed around a 1,000mph (1,609kmh) World Land Speed Record. The primary aim is to inspire the next generation of scientist and engineers by showcasing STEM subjects (science, technology engineering and mathematics) in the most exciting way possible.

At full speed, Bloodhound SSC will cover a mile (1.6km) in 3.6 seconds – that’s 4.5 football pitches laid end to end per second or 300m in the blink of an eye.

The world land speed record of 763mph (1228km/h) is held by Thrust SSC, a UK team led by Bloodhound’s Project Director Richard Noble and driven by Andy Green.

65% of students engaged by the Bloodhound Education Programme would now consider engineering or science as a vocation (sample size: 1,804).

Bloodhound’s education team have created over 1,000 pieces of free curriculum ready teaching resource.

The Model Rocket Car Challenge, supported by Guinness World Records, has seen students build model cars capable initially of speeds of 88mph, which then rose to 210mph and now 553mph (889km/h), a record held by Joseph Whitaker Young Engineers Club.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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