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Young inventors help to save lives

BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS: Miles Ferguson (centre, back row) with fellow students and Peter Morrison (right), Katrina Estien and Carl Blair (left)

ENTERPRISING students in Birmingham won praise after creating and manufacturing a product that has been described as a potential lifesaver.

Pupils at Hamstead Hall Academy in Handsworth Wood have invented the ‘Oxisense’ which, when worn as a wristband, gives asthma sufferers early warning of an imminent attack.

They are being supported by Peter Morrison and his unique Eureka Programme, a hands-on business development project which includes design, prototyping and marketing.

As two time winner of the British Inventor of the Year accolade Morrison, who has also appeared on the TV show Dragons’ Den, is no stranger to being the driving force behind several unique projects.

“The focus of Eureka is to provide employment opportunities for those leaving school, who may find it difficult to enter the job market based on their qualifications,” explained Morrison, who helped inmates at a West Midlands prison design a stove that will prove to be a lifeline for thousands of families in developing countries.

PRODUCTS

“And the other aim is for our products and services to play their part in helping to improve the UK national and local economy.”

The Oxisense wristband was among 50 ideas put forward by the year nine students, but pupil Miles Ferguson’s story of how his 20-year-old cousin died of asthma prompted everyone to pursue this particular idea.

Miles, who is 14, said: “I’m really proud that my idea is coming to fruition and I hope it helps other asthma sufferers to manage their condition. We’ve all really enjoyed working together to create something like this.”

Morrison explained that the flexible wristband will have embedded software which will detect changing situations that could bring on an asthma attack such as an increased heart rate, or external pollution.

“We are at the electronic development stage,” explained Morrison, chief executive of Solas Consultants. “The next stage is product testing where we identify a group of asthma sufferers and trial the product with them.

TWEAK

“We will then check the data and use that to improve or tweak the product before we go to full production.”

The students, who have secured an award from UnLtd, a charity which supports young social entrepreneurs in the UK, has also been helped by CRDM, the UK’s biggest rapid prototyping company, which gave its services for free.

Sukhbir Farar, Hamstead Hall Academy’s deputy head, said: “We are very proud of what our students are achieving through this project. It has given them a real sense of ownership and pride.

“They have learned many skills by developing this project together – skills that will stand them in good stead long after they have left school.”

Katrina Estien, a teacher and head of programme development for Eureka, said: “We’ve been running this programme with the students for the past 15 weeks and seen them come on in leaps and bounds. The work fits in with vital literacy and numeracy work, while also developing their entrepreneurship skills and problem solving.”

While Carl Blair, a teaching assistant and inclusion officer added: “The students have been really excited by this because they can see its relevance. All that they have learned therefore has far more impact on them. They have developed a lot of skills both together and independently.”

Morrison said: “We hope to work with some asthma organisations when the product is finished.

“Apart from creating a valuable and useful product from scratch, our aim is to provide skills that can help students in their chosen career path, while others may continue to work with Oxisense for the lifetime of the product.”

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