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Microchip breakthrough brings STEM technology into primary schools

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Developed in South Australia by eLabtronics, the Runlinc platform is being taught to children as young as eight years old and allows simple but powerful investigations to be made.

eLabtronics CEO Dr Peng Choo said the new development platform was being rolled out as fast as possible “from the ground up” by teaching young people how to use it.

Unlike other electronic prototyping platforms, such as Arduino, Runlinc’s development system software and corresponding web page is already on the Wi-Fi chip, dramatically simplifying the programming process.

This allows a typical programming task, such as building a web page to control two LED lights, to be completed in 30 minutes using six lines of code compared with 30 hours and more than 120 lines of code for Arduino.

“The platforms at the moment are either too simple – like Lego – or too hard like Arduino,” Choo said.

“We’ve actually invented something where suddenly they can do Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, they can create their own web pages and little apps from an early age.

“Runlinc is so easy to use that even upper primary school students can get started so can you imagine what it also does for industry when it’s that easy. This technology is very much about a change of mindset because this program will run outside the chip, which is a completely different mindset.”

He said Runlinc achieved global patent pending status in January and the company was in the process of applying for a Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) grant to teach runlinc to school students as young as eight years old as part of the Australian Government’s focus on STEM education.

Choo said the eLabtronics technology made it possible for AI technology to be taught in primary schools.

“Runlinc can play a critical role in advancing STEM education in Australia and around the world,” he said.

A runlinc inventor’s kit including a Wi-Fi chip retails for A$200.

eLabtronics was started by Peng Choo and Miroslav Kostecki in 1994. It launched an education arm called STEMSEL in 2009 to teach young migrants STEM skills. The not-for-profit organisation aims to teach disadvantaged children how to use electronics in combination with Social Enterprise Learning (SEL) and operates in Kyrgyzstan, Cameroon, India, Brunei, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, Philippines, Kenya, Bhutan, Australia and the United States.

STEMSEL already runs Inventors Clubs in schools for thousands of students around the world. The new Runlinc technology was introduced to Inventors Club students in Adelaide in 2017.

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