In Russia startups are becoming increasingly popular. Young entrepreneurs - graduate students - take part in the startup activities, but there is a unique example of where pupils are involved. We are talking about the Center of Youth Innovation Creativity (CenterIT) which was established on the basis of Physical-Technical Lyceum.
I met with the lecturers at CenterIT, Candidates of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Sergey Portnov and Anatoly Karavaev to learn more about the new format of startup.
The Center of Youth Innovation Creativity, CenterIT, is a kind of a startup. You have specific projects such as 'Smart House'.
- Is it your first startup project which can be subsequently put into practice and into production? What is the idea of the 'Smart House?' What makes this project unique?
- The Russian format of the Center of Youth Innovation Creativity, is the analogue of the western fab lab (fabrication laboratory) which are primarily focused on the non-serial, Hi-Tech device manufacturing using modern equipment. According to international experience, such Russian Centers and similar organizations receive basic financial assistance as subsidies from the State. CenterIT was established in 2014 on the basis of Physical-Technical Lyceum № 1(one of the best Russian schools). Due to a state grant CenterIT has 30 workplaces, 8 work areas and modern Hi-Tech equipment (machines with CNC), 3D-printers and so on.
Nowadays our goal is to return on investment due to the commercialization of innovation and high technology development (such as Smart House). During the first year pupils under the guidance of SSU professors, developed a hardware and software automated building management system which includes a standard LED luminaire management system, window blinds controller and electromechanical door locks.
Two basic ideas of the design elements are simplicity and functionality. If to achieve simplicity we can use ready modules - we use them. So components used by the automotive industry appeared in the window blinds controller and electromechanical door locks. Electronic parts of all devices include modules that implement Bluetooth connection.
If in order to achieve functionality we need to develop unique software, mechanics or schematic - we have enough experience to do that. So we built an Android app which allows people to manage all control elements of the 'Smart House' using any smartphone or tablet computer.
- Some projects were presented at the Regional Expo, for example the 'Smart House'. Do you have successful projects? And what goals should you aim for?
- During the first year we have implemented 12 projects devoted to electronic robotic systems development, the combined theme of electronic robotic systems, which were presented at 7 inter-regional and Russian exhibitions and received high marks from professionals. In June 2015 we presented the 'Smart House' at the conference 'Young Technicians and Inventors' at The State Duma. And our project became one of the best regional development projects. The next step is access to the market of building management systems.
It is also important that we integrate the experience of youth innovation in our own unique educational programs that focus on training engineers. For example, our pupils learn the basics of robotic systems programming based on the technical kit Lego EV3. Also we organize workshops for our colleagues.
- Pupils take part in all projects. How useful are startups and business projects for children?
- It’s clear that by the time our pupils enter university they will have great technical developments portfolio. It is important to understand that development of electronics has fundamentally changed. We need new requirements for the engineer developer qualification (especially in Hi-Tech engineering technology solutions).
Engineers must have a combination of knowledge, skills and competence in several areas to improve electronic, mechatronic and robotic systems. The specialist must be an expert in analog and digital electronics, programming, electronic components, digital signal analysis methods and so on. That’s why a new approach to education is needed. Serious training should start at school. And an ideal route would be 'School - Startup Center - University'.