Earlier this month in Washington, D.C., Fredericton-based IT consulting company Blue Spurs won an international award in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge.
Blue Spurs’ product Blue Kit, an educational Internet of Things (IoT) starter kit for schools, won a Partners in Innovation award, which is meant to recognize technology partners, or local and regional governments innovating for the benefit of its citizens using the AWS Cloud.
Blue Spurs CEO Mike LeBlanc said the win was totally unexpected and meant a lot to the company.
“It’s an international award and I didn’t think we had a chance of winning it,” said LeBlanc in an interview. “These are innovations that happen all over the planet with leading public sector and education companies. When we won it, it was just totally unbelievable for the longest time. It was only when we got the award onstage where it finally sunk in that we got it. It was pretty big.”
“I couldn’t have picked a better award to win when I look at this one for the Blue Kit we developed. Our company, our partners, the schools and everything were just very excited about the fact that we won that award.”
LeBlanc says Blue Kit is meant to help students understand what IoT is by providing hands-on projects that can actually be built. The kits consist of physical elements like lights, hardware sensors, motion detectors, and touch sensors that all connect to a board that can be controlled with software.
Students can create projects to control an LED light with voice commands through Amazon Lex voice services, for example.
He explains the kits are useful and even important not only for students looking to make their way into computer science but for anyone who will encounter IoT in their careers, which he says will be nearly everyone.
“Every single thing these kids are going to do in life, no matter what job they have, there’s probably going to be some IoT in it,” he said. “They might not even know it. It could be artificial intelligence, it could be customer service applications, you name it. But they’ll be exposed to it.”
“We’re focused on helping them understand just what this thing is. You don’t have to be someone that’s going into computer science to take advantage of it and understand it.”
While Blue Kit has initially been used as an educational tool for K-12 students in New Brunswick, one LeBlanc says is part of a broader digital literacy initiative, it’s also packaged for commercial use. LeBlanc says this is ideal for organizations wanting to understand how IoT works and visually model user experiences but don’t know where to start.
“We’re focused on them as well, at innovation labs, hackathons, you name it. Anywhere someone’s trying to innovate with IoT, that’s a great place for [Blue Kit],” LeBlanc said.