Can you outrun a crocodile?

It might not seem the most vital question for youngsters to explore in the classroom but at Addiewell Primary School the issue forms part of a much bigger educational picture.

The West Lothian school is one of 40 across Edinburgh, Fife, the Lothians and Borders to take part in Europe’s largest Internet of Things network, using indoor smart technology to enhance learning inside and outwith the classroom.

There are 17 pupils in the school's P7 who are benefitting from the innovative scheme which gives schools the sensors - capable of measuring CO2, humidity, light, air pressure and temperature levels - and lets children develop ways to use them.

At Addiewell the sensors have had a huge impact on the curriculum and children's appetite for learning.

The Herald:

Last year, when the sensors were first introduced, one pupil suggested contacting the nearby Five Sisters Zoo to see if they might monitor levels in the crocodile enclosure.

The zoo, which has a strong education team, leapt at the chance to help.

Not only do pupils remotely monitor the conditions in the reptile enclosure but zookeepers also use the sensors to keep watch on their animals after opening hours.

But... can the youngsters outrun a crocodile?

READ MORE: The Tory party's right wing populism is an insult to voters

"A lot of them would have perished," says teacher Liam Airley, with a laugh.

His pupils agree. Vanessa Olber, 11, points at herself then two friends and says: "We would be breakfast, lunch and dinner."

Her classmate Connor Kelly, also 11, adds: "I would be brunch."

The pupils haven't just been focused on zoo animals and their environments but also on their own environments.

One of the first projects they tackled using their Internet of Things sensors was a close investigation of their own classroom, which fell far short of acceptable standards with a high Co2 level of 3000 parts per million (ppm).

A school classroom should be at 1000ppm so the pupils looked at how they might bring this number down and settled on spider plants. Each child now has their own spider plant in the classroom, which they have the responsibility to care for.

Read Sir Peter Mathieson full column here: Edinburgh wants to become the data capital of Europe

Mr Airley says the project has become integral to learning about science, maths, technology and data handling, as well as creativity and leadership skills with pupils so enthused by the Internet of Things that they are choosing to do additional work at home.

The plan now for the scheme, which is funded mainly by the UK government and run by the University of Edinburgh, is to provide every school in the south-east of Scotland with advanced environmental sensors.

Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, said: “Data is all around us, shaping the way we live, work and engage with each other: our goal to make the digital sector more accessible to young people is therefore clear.

"The Internet of Things schools’ network aims to give pupils the confidence, competence and ambition to use data to benefit themselves and their communities in an ever-changing digital world.

READ MORE: North Lanarkshire leisure closures are the shutters falling on my childhood

"Today, even more schools are taking part and by the end of this school year we will have rolled the project out to the vast majority of south east Scotland’s local authority schools, making it Europe’s largest IoT network."

Thousands of young people are already benefitting from the Internet of Things schools project, which was launched in 2019 and also provides some schools with outdoor air quality monitors, soil moisture sensors and weather stations.

The £9.5 million scheme, for which funding also comes from the Scottish Government, is expected to be rolled out to the majority of south east Scotland’s 525 local authority schools by the end of the school year.

Each sensor is linked to a high performance computer at Edinburgh’s International Data Facility – where the data is transformed into graphs and charts that learners and teachers can readily access online.

The Herald:

Connor said he enjoys looking at the data even during the school holidays, logging on remotely from home to check how the classroom's Co2 levels are faring when no one is in class.

At Five Sisters Zoo, head of education Adam Welsh said they had "jumped at the chance" to be involved when Addiewell Primary pupils got in touch.

He said: "It was quite an easy yes from us when we heard from Addiewell and they said what they wanted to do.

READ MORE: Who do we trust now? North Lan residents say leisure closures dent faith in politicians

"We didn't realise how serious the equipment was - we thought it would break after a few weeks in such a humid crocodile enclosure but we set it up anyway, where the crocodiles couldn't access it.

"And, actually, the data has been incredibly useful and we're hoping that more schools will want to get involved with us so we can have more sensors fitted in other places around the zoo.

"Zookeepers worry about their animals; they never switch off and if, say, it's cold at night they want to ensure their animals are warm.

"So we're finding the data really useful from our own perspective because we can access it remotely and check in on our enclosures."

The IoT Schools Network, part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, is one of more than 3000 research ventures involved in the university’s Data Driven Innovation (DDI) programme, now in its fifth year.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord said: "The Internet of Things schools programme is an excellent example of how the City Region Deal is creating exciting opportunities for future generations, and innovating to tackle real-world issues.

"This pioneering programme is empowering young minds to gather and use data to learn about their environment, and will hopefully inspire and prepare students for potential careers in the data-driven economy.

"The UK Government is investing £261m in the Data-Driven Innovation programme and more than £380m in levelling up across South East Scotland."

Its purpose is to help young people to navigate an increasingly complex digital landscape and interest them in studying STEM subjects.

The Herald:

DDI aims to establish the region as the Data Capital of Europe through drawing inward investment, inspiring entrepreneurship and delivering inward economic growth.

Scottish Government Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray said: "Internet of Things technology is transforming how we all live our lives, from checking the weather to inspiring green growing walls to improve the school environment.

"This Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal-funded project demonstrates to the next generation the value of science and technology.

"By turning cutting edge research into businesses, we are supporting the entrepreneurs of the future and helping achieve the vision set out in the National Innovation Strategy for Scotland to become one of the most innovative small nations in the world over the next decade.”