DJRFF students impress sports scientists with their thirst for knowledge

State school children from Sheffield have been exposed to the technology that helps Britain’s athletes in their quest to break world records.

Nearly 50 pupils from Tapton School visited Sheffield Hallam University to spend the day with Dr Sarah Churchill, a leading sports scientist who has worked with governing bodies and elite teams to enhance track and field performance.

The Year 9 students, aged 13 and 14, are studying the newly launched computer science course designed and funded by the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, a new UK charity set up to educate, empower and improve the lives of children.

They had hands-on experience with the same high-tech equipment that Sheffield Hallam University researchers use with elite athletes and professional teams. These measure abilities and fitness and gather data points about movement such as force, jump height, jump distance and explosive strength.

Dr Churchill encouraged the children to consider what makes ‘good data’, showed them how to capture it and then encouraged them to question it.

She said: “I was impressed with the ideas they came up with, which showed a great level of knowledge, understanding and detail. Their questions were of a standard you might expect from some undergraduates.
“We wanted to show the pupils how data can be applied in the real world.

Learning how to analyse data does not mean you can only become a data analyst. It means you can broaden your horizons because data analysis can be applied to anything and everything.”

Dr Churchill is course leader for the BSc (Hons) Sport and Exercise Technology degree at Hallam and delivers a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules. She gained her PhD entitled ‘Biomechanical Investigations of Bend Running Technique in Athletic Sprint Events’ at the University of Bath and joined the teaching team at Hallam in 2013.

David Richards, co-founder of and founder and CEO of software company and data specialist WANdisco, said: “We were delighted with the positive feedback from Sarah and her team at Sheffield Hallam University, which we believe shows that our new computer science course is starting to have an impact.

“We passionately believe in introducing young people to the possibilities of new technologies, especially in real-world settings where they can see its power to achieve positive change.

“We would like to thank Sheffield Hallam University for taking the time to host the visit and we look forward to developing a strong working relationship with this great institution.”

The curriculum is introducing pupils to team-building, data and predictions, statistics and sports analytics, algorithms, privacy, IoT, regulations, visualisation, filtering and many more relevant and practical topics. The curriculum started at Tapton School in September 2018 and will be rolled out to other schools in the future.

About the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation:

David Richards, the founder and chief executive of WANdisco plc, set up with wife Jane to educate, empower and improve the lives of children. The foundation is registered as a charitable incorporated organisation to operate throughout England.

Its trustees are Professor Chris Brady, director of the Centre for Sports Business at the University of Salford, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, and Herb Kim, founder and CEO of Thinking Digital.

Its aims are the advancement of computing and ecology education in state schools and the advancement of environmental protection and improvement.

The foundation is supporting the installation and running costs of beehives and bee colonies at a number of state schools in Sheffield, starting with Wisewood Primary School.

David and Jane Richards have donated £1.1m to fund its work.