Posted on July 25, 2017 by staff

Smartphone education tool grabs Google’s attention


An Australian start-up using smartphone sensor technology to develop science learning tools has caught the attention of Google.

Phonelabs will demonstrate its unique approach to education at the Californian giant’s Science Foo Camp next month.

The firm uses sensors through a web-based application to calculate measurements like acceleration, speed, sound and gravity.

Smartphones can then be attached to objects including bicycles and skateboards to perform a variety of experiments that reinforce scientific principles in everyday settings familiar to students.

Phonelabs founder and CEO Sivam Krish is excited to present Phonelabs at the event dubbed the “unconference” and to demonstrate how STEM education could evolve.

He added: “Education hasn’t really fundamentally changed – there is always someone talking, children listening – sometimes from textbooks to YouTube videos.

“The rise of Artificial Intelligence and the over reliance on technology to solve simpler and simpler problems is trashing knowledge.

“The magic of what we are trying to do with sensor technology is helping people experience what they’re learning, visualise things like acceleration and understand why the thing they’re learning has value.”

Science Foo is an exclusive science gathering organised by Google, O’Reilly media, Nature, and Digital Science, which consists of about 250 researchers, educators, writers, artists and investors from around the world.

The Phonelabs system was developed at Flinders University in Adelaide, in conjunction with students from the Australian Science and Mathematics School.

Its parent firm runs workshops in South Australian schools using 3D-printed accessories such as smartphone stands and measuring devices designed for specific experiments.

Most lessons in the Phonelabs program are performed outside of the classroom.

Regular classes that take 40 – 50 minutes can be reduced to 20 minutes.

According to a recent Australian Government report, national participation in STEM subjects is at its lowest level in 20 years and performance results are declining.

Dr Krish said the way Phonelabs balanced science fun with facts helped students better retain information.

“Learning should be a compilation of ‘aha’ moments, where kids understand things for the first time and then it just clicks. This is what we set out to do,” he said.

Phonelabs was awarded South Australian Startup of the Year at the 2016 iAwards, which recognise innovative companies having an impact in the field of Information and Communications Technology.

Dr Krish said he hoped the Science Foo Camp would help him form new relationships and forge potential partnerships.
The event will take place on August 4 – 6 at the Googleplex in Mountainview, California.