“Metco Made it All Workable”

The client need

Jack Penman developed a computer unit, called the “Jackbord”, to drive all sorts of gadgets and robots – that kids could build themselves like an intelligent ‘Meccano set’.

Part of his vision was to restore the Kiwi DIY know-how that’s fading in younger generations. He saw a lot of technology consumption in a wasteful ‘disposable culture’ without understanding where it all comes from or how it works. Jack wanted to instill some new creativity, along with resourcefulness and sustainability.

The Jackbord needed to be versatile, robust, and affordable for all school children, and suitable for teaching robotics. Jack’s colleague in their charitable trust, John Lewis, approached several engineering companies to produce a frame for the unit, but they were all too expensive. Not feasible for the accessible low-cost technology they had in mind.

But then John visited Metco and came back ‘smiling like a Cheshire Cat’ according to Jack.

The Metco experience in the client’s words

A Big Leap Ahead

“When we visited Paul, he seemed to really get the vision of our project and embraced it. It wasn’t long before he was having fun playing with a Jackbord. Then the bombshell – he offered to produce the frame for free, effectively sponsoring us. Wow, fantastic!

This really enabled us to get it out there at low cost, so no kids would miss out because of money issues.”

Fitting the Bill – Practical and Robust

“We decided the Jackbord frame needed to be Aluminium, rather than plastic, for durability and to be bolted onto.

Jack at Metco walked us through the manufacturing process and explained everything – a lot of stuff I hadn’t realised. I was inspired by their experience and hi-tech capability which gave me ideas.

He helped us to find better ways of doing things – such as bending 20 angle brackets at a time instead of individually as we had done before.

The end result was a truly robust unit, surviving the ‘school bag knock around’ test. If the kids do break a Jackbord in extreme situations, they can repair it themselves and learn something in the process.”

The outcome

Truly ‘Accessible’ and Sustainable

“The low cost has removed the barriers to each child having their own Jackbord, enabling maximum participation – unlike more expensive systems where they can only have a single unit shared amongst eight kids, so one of them ends up doing most of the work and the others miss out.

So they now all have a vested interest and collective ownership, where everyone has a part to play.

Jackbords can be assembled and produced by the children themselves and we pay them for it, helping to finance their education.”

The Sky’s the Limit

“The unit empowers kids to build gadgets they could only dream of before, because of the low-cost and use of recycled materials which we encourage them to look for.

The Jackbord is fully modular, so multiple units can be connected to build more complex applications. Because of the endless possibilities of advanced development, students never grow out of it from year 7 to 13.”

The children share their ideas and software programs on our website, fostering an industrious creative community.

They have come up with endless useful applications, such as managing glasshouse temperature for optimum plant growth, or robots that can pick up rubbish from beaches or do Easter egg hunts – using cellphone cameras so kids can see what’s going on and drive it remotely from home.”

Snowballing Impact

“Metco has bent over backwards to help us get the Jackboard out there into schools to make the whole world of technology reachable. Their support has been fantastic.

Students have been motivated to go onto tertiary courses in various sectors of technology, so the future impact is huge.

Zak, one of my former robotics students, now in his 3rd year of computer science at Vic Uni, used his 400 hours of work experience to develop a new web-based dashboard for the JackBord, which has been a vast improvement for both the kids and teachers.”

Find out more about the Jackbord at www.jackbord.org

Quad Robot