Hardware

Acer launches answer to Pi

March 27th, 2018
Acer has announced the CloudProfessor, a stand-alone mini-computer which connects to mobile devices or laptops, and is designed to help youngsters both learn to code and create. 
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Acer says the CloudProfessor is the culmination of 40 years of effort to bring together hardware, software, and service into one transportable device. It is aimed at making technology accessible to everyone and at educating the current generation on how to code and use sensors and motors to build a digital solution for everyday problems.

More and more countries are adopting computer programming as part of its school curricula as an increasing number of jobs in the future will require a basic skill level in ICT.

Says Glenn du Toit, Acer BYOC Digital Business Development: “With CloudProfessor, we are able to give everyone the opportunity to see how easy it can be to design the next great innovation by combining actual sensors and motors and then choosing between a variety of programming languages, including JavaScript, as well as Blockly, to get their innovation programmed and working. This provides younger learners with the building and visual interface they need to start innovating in the new Internet of Things era.”

The solution is made for implementation in the education system to encourage and allow both learners and teachers to create solutions for next generation.

As Barak Obama said, “In the new economic environment, computer science isn’t an optional skill but rather a basic skill.”

Du Toit says: “The CloudProfessor is targeted towards the education sector under the Acer umbrella to equip learners of all ages to become digital citizens and not just consumers of digital content but creators of digital solutions. It will help students become contributors to the digital society and not just consumers of a digital society.

“For example, using the CloudProfessor an individual can develop an application that turns lights on at home when they are not in, which allows for convenience and safety. Moreover, the device can build a full industrial irrigation system to be used on a farm. It’s a tool that allows hands-on experience, which promotes diverse experiences and encourages professional multi-industry integration through all the generations.”

Acer, in conjunction with CloudClub.Africa, is using the CloudProfessor with the University of Johannesburg in a project to teach non-technical and non-engineering students how the digital world will integrate into their chosen field. This is where the CloudProfessor is expected to come into its own in making IoT easy for non-technical students.

Importance of Coding Vs Digital Disruption 

Coding skills are in demand across a broad range of careers, not just for programmers. The ability not only to use but also to program software is often required from business people who work with data, from designers and marketers who create websites, from engineers who build products and technologies, and from scientists who conduct research.

According to a Burning Glass Report, an analytics software company, seven million job openings in 2015 were in occupations that required coding skills, and programming jobs overall are growing 12% faster than the market average.

However, says du Toit, the introduction of CloudProfessor is not digital disruption, it’s about digital education. CloudProfessor is a second-generation educational tool which is a practical and a necessary addition to education in South Africa and globally.

“CloudProfessor is a step further than simple coding and robotics. There is 40 hours of robotics lessons in both Javascript and Blockley catering to a range of age groups, by including industrial sensors and motors into the expanded lessons. However, in the process the focus shifts from simply following instructions to building a robot, to identifying a problem, then building a solution”.

How does it work?

1.     Build and connect all the elements received in the box.

2.     Download the CloudProfessor app which is customised for mobile [Andriod and iOS], tablets and the Acer Chromebook. Scan the QR code to get started.

3.     Once you have done this – login into your CloudProfessor app and enable your Bluetooth to pair with your CloudProfessor device.

4.     Download the LED 101 app to access lessons and modules on how to code and develop, the first step in your cloud and IoT education.

5.     Watch the video here.

“It’s a cross-platform tool which will work in any school. All that is needed is a tablet or a smartphone or even a Chromebook. The lessons are directly linked to STEAM education methodology and covers topics addressed in subjects such as Economic Management Sciences [EMS], Science and Technology, Mathematics. Added to this, coding and problem solving that is inherent in the CloudProfessor lessons that follow a logical process and requires learners to follow through a chronological organisation of tasks which helps kids better understand the processes of Maths, Science and even general life skills.”

Another great feature of the CloudProfessor as an education tool is the fact that it is mobile and can literally be used to teach learners to build solutions and code from anywhere.

“As its usable from a mobile device, all that is needed is a power bank. It’s not technology that requires masses and masses of infrastructure such as screens, PCs, or even a notebook.”

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