Focus Week – Wearable Tech

At International School we have a tradition of designating one week in spring as a “Focus Week.”  This week allows for students to experience and learn about occupational academics. Teachers plan and prep for one week, for just one class, for one group of students, all day.  Some focus weeks involve trips overseas, others designing video games or becoming a local culinary chef.

Pitching Wearable Tech

“Technology is a huge part of each of our lives and new devices like Fitbit, Microsoft Hololens, Microsoft Band, Apple Watch, and Google Wear are helping us do cool things we’ve never dreamed up.  These devices (called “wearables”) use sensors to understand your body’s signals to help you stay healthy.  These sensors include ways to watch your heart rate, see how you sleep, understand when you are stressed, or even when you are getting sick! Come try many of these cutting edge devices, think about what works well and what needs improving, and then design your own wearable ideas with Microsoft Engineers!”

Focus week was geared towards middle school students learning about the design of “wearable” computers that use sensors to do cool and useful things. We would go on a guided tour of Microsoft’s secret labs to see its wearable technology, and learn from multiple computer engineers, scientists, and designers.

Prior to focus week I heard from a few high school students they too were interested in wearable tech and were dismayed it was only offered for middle school students.  Apparently wearable tech is a hot item at any grade level.

A week of fun and learning

We had an awesome week of learning, testing, tearing apart and designing prototypes of wearable tech.  Jason, our lead Microsoft host and learning guide, helped students to understand the science, technology, designing, data management and marketing behind most wearable fitness trackers. We began the week with trying out our own fitness trackers and connecting to the various mobile apps.  From there we had a day tour at Microsoft, talking and learning from the doers of wearable tech. It wasn’t just a “look and see” tour it was “let’s have YOU try this out and understand how we make this work” tour.  We had a behind the scenes look at current and future design and prototype development of fitness bands. We discussed the how testing is done with the exercise coaches who collect and source the data used for health tracking. Lastly we participated in how user testing is conducted and the psychology behind it.  All in all it was a well-rounded glimpse of a myriad of areas involved with wearable tech.

As the week progressed we reviewed the pros and cons of a variety of different health and fitness trackers, which had the best software to worst hardware. Later we disassembled old Microsoft Bands, to see how the hardware is put together to enable the software to function. We also learned about how coding and algorithms are vital to understanding how movement data is calculated and returned to the end consumers as something useful for their health and exercise tracking.

The end of the week allowed for learning the many facets of design and prototyping. We learned from two experts and then students designed their own wearable tech prototypes to present to the experts and other interested focus week community members.

Will there be future wearable tech scientists, developers, designers in our midst? Maybe or maybe not – who knows? Maybe what will designed hasn’t been thought of yet, or has it?

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