The Kookaberry was designed and developed in Australia by Australian engineers as a low cost open source technology platform for Primary school teachers and students to use in conjunction with their normal lesson plans. It has the benefit of being influenced by many competent and successful examples such as Arduino and MicroBit.
How it started
In late 2016, just after the release of the micro:bit in the UK by the BBC in March of the same year, Julian Dinsdale, an Australian consultant engineer with offices in both Australia and the UK, was asked by teacher colleagues in the UK whether he had been involved in its design.
This was not a silly question, as one of Julian's previous companies was responsible for collecting the data used for managing Australian dams and power grids; and he has a life-long interest in primary school learning and the importance of STEM literacy.
Julian quickly recognised the elegance of the micro:bit design, and the beauty and impact of a business model that delivered one free into the hands of every Year 7 student in the UK.
He also recognised that, whilst the micro:bit was ideally suited for its purpose of supporting the new UK Year 7 computing science curriculum, the requirement to code it before it could do anything useful could be problematical for primary school teachers with no prior coding experience.
Julian decided to gather together some Australian engineering colleagues to design and develop a learning platform based upon the micro:bit that could raise the STEM literacy of primary school students before they went onto secondary school.
It helped enormously that the developer of the MicroPython language used for the micro:bit is an Australian academic, Damien George, who threw his support behind the Kookaberry project.
Kookaberry design and development
A fundamental design philosophy of the Kookaberry is that it needs to come out of its box and be used
in a lesson plan, then packed away all in under an hour. No software coding... just run engaging and fun
STEM applications that make students think and enquire about what is being achieved – and have fun
at the same time.
The Kookaberry's design brief can be found behind the "FIND OUT HOW" button in the header on the Home page.
Early prototypes benefited from collaboration with Associate Professor James Curran's team at Sydney University' Australian Computing Academy, and John Phillips joined the team to assist with its introduction into Australian classrooms.
The team was later expanded to include Tony Strasser who has written all the apps; Rob McTaggart who has designed this website and is developing our professional learning programme; and Evan Bonser who is evaluating our apps and creating video tutorials.
The first Kookaberries were assembled in a sheltered workshop in Hornsby and distributed to schools around NSW for evaluation. The next 200 boards were made by GPC Electronics in Penrith, with 50 pre-ordered by the Catholic Education Office of the Diocese of Wollongong. The remainder are either being trialled in schools or being used for training and eveluation.
The next production run of Kookaberries for classroom implementation in Term 1, 2021, will also be made at GPC's Penrith facility
The design process
Every problem and product can benefit from the presence of a design brief and the application of a design process to ensure the best possible outcome.
Designing and developing the Kookaberry followed such a process.
One of the simplest to understand and implement in primary schools is Boston Museum of Science's Engineering is Elementary (EIE) programme for primary students.
The EIE programme is being supported by Questacon, with Government funding.