ASC FROM THE VOICES OF THE USERS: interviews with teachers, startuppers, citizens in need for reskilling, young aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of art and creativity

Aveiro Steam City from the voices of the users
Criatech event
Aveiro Steam city (ASC) is a complex and fascinating project because it combines the provision of infrastructural actions and services; if - on the one hand - we have activities such as the installation of the 5G network, the renovation of a historic building such as the Edifício Atlas – Fernando Távora, the positioning of smart devices in the city center - on the other hand - there are actions directly aimed at end users, with the goal to train them, empower them and help them find new jobs or business opportunities.
In this article we want to talk about some of the actions planned within Aveiro Steam City, starting from the voices of the direct beneficiaries: teachers, startuppers, citizens in need for reskilling, young aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of art and creativity.
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Thanks to ASC, all primary schools in Aveiro were equipped with brand new “tech labs”: mobile stations with a number of tools, such as robotics kits, electrical equipment and 3D printers, useful for pupils in order to practice steam subjects and become enthusiastic about them. In this framework, teachers are involved in order to transfer knowledge to students by using innovative teaching methodologies. They benefit from a training programme, in order to obtain the necessary skills to deliver the project.

The Teacher Training Course is designed by the University of Aveiro, partner of ASC, to give teachers an understanding of what Tech Labs are and how to effective use their equipment in order to support teaching and increase student’s engagement with STEAM education. This Course aims to help teachers come up with projects and ideas that could fit into their school’s curricula and lesson plans as well as help them use new tools like: 3D printers, robotics kits, hand tolls and electronics. Also, an innovative platform called UBBU was introduced in schools in order to allow students to gradually acquire knowledge about information and communication technologies and learn basic programming concepts, while developing various skills in terms of writing, mathematics, expressions through properly planned and interdisciplinary classes.

So far 111 teachers have been trained in multiple sessions and 2636 students have been involved in activities based on the use of “tech labs” and UBBU platform.

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Marco Aurélio Neves (Tech Lab Teacher)

The Tech Lab project, according to my perspective, is very important in two dimensions: I) Technological dimension - empowers trainees (teachers) with technological tools with enormous applicability to students and to school community, creating this greater form of involvement of all in the learning process; ii)  Innovation dimension - the tools used are very innovative and create bridges for new research and new teaching processes and methodologies: more updated and strategically aligned with students' self-motivations.

This methodology creates in students a huge involvement with the task. (…) STEAM methodologies create the motivational seed in order to keep students focused on a particular learning goal. (…)

Today's students are motivated by constant encouragement through novelty. These activities give this stimulus, thus increasing students' interest in the curricular contents. Today's school has to be seen as a cell in the midst of a global society. A cell connected to a global society. This type of activities creates scope and interest in the search for knowledge. If a student feels the need to learn and feels that the learning process carried out is useful, fun and challenging, he/she is automatically involved with the whole process of knowledge creation. These activities make this connection very natural, constructive and efficient.

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Maria Gonçalves (UBBU Teacher)

Thanks to the use of the UBBU platform “…Classes are planned in such a way that students discover that computers are not just for playing. They discover that they can create their games, projects and challenges.

Students feel very motivated with the use of this platform in the classroom, in such a way that they are the ones who enthusiastically remember: "today is UBBU day!". In the context of Distance Learning, they continue to hold their classes. Most of my students are already quite autonomous and are carrying out the exercises alone or with the assistance of family members”.

students practicing STEAM subjects

The city of Aveiro is committed to developing a technological urban center of reference at European level, by promoting the development of innovative solutions, through the creation of the first Living Lab of the city, placed in the city center.

Aveiro’s Living Lab is composed of an advanced communications infrastructure and an innovative urban platform that, together, allow the provision of an open and large-scale technological laboratory in the city at the service of researchers, digital industries, startups, scaleups, R&D centers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders interested in developing, testing or demonstrating concepts, products or services.

The Living Lab infrastructure aims to be an authentic space for testing innovative solutions, where multiple stakeholders collaborate in the development, validation and testing of novel technologies and services in a real context.

Based on the infrastructure of the Aveiro Tech City Living Lab, which includes, among the other hardware, a 5G network, smart city sensors and a fiber infrastructure, the city of Aveiro launched two editions of the Aveiro Urban Challenges and Aveiro 5G Challenges. 

- Aveiro 5G Challenges were launched in partnership with Altice Labs, Telecommunications Institute and the University of Aveiro; “Aveiro 5G Challenges” award new solutions and products based on the use of 5G technology. In the “Aveiro testbed”, startups, scaleups and R&D centers are able to develop and work on innovative solutions, with technical support and mentoring sessions. 2 editions programmed: the 3 winners of each edition are awarded with 25.000,00€ each and the remaining finalists will have financial support of 2.000,00€; 2 editions were already launched:

§ 2020 First Edition awarded:  Live Electric Tours (PT), Biometrica (IT) and EVA Drones (UK), counting 10 Finalists from different countries (among the others: PT, Brazil, Mexico, Uk, Italy, Spain, Russia).

§ 2021 Second Edition: the call has been launched and the deadline for applications is March 2021. 

-     Aveiro Urban Challenges are open to Startups, Scaleups and R&D Institutions, able to address and provide solutions to urban contemporary issues, affecting the community. The challenges identified by project’s stakeholders are:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) for maintenance of equipment and networks;
  • Bicycle powered by hydrogen fuel cells;
  • Vehicle allocation optimization, based on ecological footprint and operating cost criteria; d) Smart energy networks;
  • Bio-waste selective collection solutions.

Each challenge awards the 5 finalists with 20.000,00€ each.

§ 2020 Edition - the first edition of Aveiro Urban Challenges awarded the following 5 Winners:

o   Klugit (PT) |operating in the domain of Smart Grids Solutions | Stakeholder: EDP

o   Apria Systems (ES) | operating in the domain of Hydrogen Bicycles | Stakeholder: GALP Gás Natural Distribuição

o   Allbesmart (PT) | operating in the domain of Augmented reality applications for water distribution infrastructures | Stakeholder: ADRA

o   Mosaic Factory (ES) | Operating in the domain of Bus fleets’ smart management | Stakeholder: Transdev

o    2bConnect (PT) | operating in the domain of Smart Bio Waste collection | Stakeholder: VEOLIA

§ 2021 Edition – the call has been launched and the deadline for applications is March 2021.

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Matteo Beccatelli (Biometrica | 5G Challenge Winner)

“(…) The Aveiro 5G Challenge was a great chance because the environment of Aveiro was young, dynamic, technologic and innovative. Biometrica strongly believes in these values. The participation, and the victory to a challenge like the “5G challenge”, gave us more self-confidence. It had a strong impact on Customers and attracted the attention of people interested in our project”.

urban challenges
Interview

Belarmino Coutinho (EDP Distribuição | Urban Challenge Mentor)

“This initiative is very relevant, allowing public entities, such as the Aveiro City Council, to boost activities with various stakeholders and to find new beneficial solutions for citizens (…) integrating best practices and creating value (…).

The Urban Challenges program proved to be of high value for the innovation of smart grids. The intelligent energy grid contributes to greater efficiency and sustainability, by optimizing energy systems, reducing CO2 emissions and reducing the use of fossil resources. This network incorporates numerous sensors, which allows you to instantly control the status of the entire network, balance loads and prevent damage before they happen. Smart electricity grids are fundamental for the city of the future (…)”.

“Aveiro Tech City Bootcamp” is an important part of the "tech" strategy of the city of Aveiro and a key element to stimulate STEAM skills and coding skills, connected to the process of digitization and empowerment of citizens who benefit from the UIA Aveiro Steam City project.

The program is also part of the local strategy to train human resources and retain talent in the region and city of Aveiro, specially by promoting Java and JavaScript programming skills to citizens who would like to work at local ICT ecosystem as Full Stack developers.

Unemployed professionals or students, as well as employees looking for new opportunities, are taught by professionals (coders form Academia de Código) how to code through Java and Java Script programming languages.

The Bootcamp, that is certified by Employment and Labor Relations General-Direction (DGERT), includes a set of intensive and onsite training classes, delivered over 12 weeks, in classroom context, and 12 weeks, in work environment context.

The integration of trainees in job training is one of the differentiating aspects of this program, not only because it allows them to apply in practice the acquired skills, but also it leverages their integration in the local labor market and subsequently support talent retention in Aveiro.

In 2021, after the enrollment of 450 people and the final selection of 61 participants, three editions of the program were carried out, with the 3rd edition still ongoing.

Considering only the data from the first two editions, 69% of the trainees were hired (27 out of 39), mostly with permanent contracts (74%), and 44% of them are currently based in the Aveiro Region (12 out of 27).

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João Afonso Leite Correia (Trainee)

“Programme’s curriculum was designed with the aim of training a junior developer in the best possible way in few weeks. I believe it gives great theoretical bases to start a professional career as a software developer and I believe that this teaching model, combined with autonomous learning, will become the norm in this area. However, the level of difficulty is quite high and you need to invest many hours to achieve good results. But the results worth it!

This initiative was spectacular to launch me into the job market as a programmer. Since I was already studying programming before joining the course, I was looking for a training opportunity that would capture the attention of companies. Said that, I couldn't be more satisfied with my choice.

It was definitely an opportunity that changed my life positively. I got a good job in an area that I love and I was able to learn and be challenged every day. I would recommend to anyone who has an interest for programming to opt for such an initiative!”.

coding training
Interview

Tiago Silva (Trainee)

“I consider the program very well structured (…). In a short period of time, all key concepts are assimilated through an intense practice (…). The structure of classroom training also leads to the development of soft skills that are an asset for the business community and for the integration of the trainee in the job context. The internship offered at the end of the lessons is extremely important for the consolidation of the syllabus and for the launch of a new career.

Without a doubt, the (…) program acts as a facilitator of opportunities and as a launching pad. It allowed me to enter into a job market that I was aiming at in a short period of time. This initiative put me on the path to reach professional success”.

Promoted by Aveiro City Council, the following two programs - 'Aveiro Criatech Artistic Residences'  and “MTF labs” - aim to cross creativity in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. The programs are implemented by teachers from ESAD and the University of Aveiro. Programs’ targets’ are people linked to the creative or technological industries, creators, artists, students and anyone who has the ambition to develop new projects in the area of the multimedia arts. These initiatives aim to provide candidates with practical and theoretical tools on the production of technological artifacts that result in innovative artistic projects. Let’s see the two programs in details.

- “Criatech Artistic Residence”: the program aims at promoting the development of STEAM competences in a collaborative ideation context, with the participation of professionals and students from various creative areas. Through the transfer of experiences and knowledge, and the execution of multidisciplinary activities, Criatech Artistic Residences aim to promote a learning culture, thinking, experimentation, exploration and innovation production. In its first edition, 24 people participated in the residences, however, due to Covid-19 pandemic, activities were readapted to remote participation. Two artists, from distinct artistic areas, have participated as program’s mentors: Cadie Desbiens-Desmeules and Michael Dean. The showcase of the projects developed in the first edition will take place by the end of 2021. The second edition will be announced soon.

- “MTF Labs”: it is a 5-day invitation-only innovation prototyping event, that brings together a carefully curated group of experts, selected from the global MTF community together with regional ecosystems of creators, researchers and entrepreneurs. Working Monday to Friday with a wide range of cutting-edge technologies, provided by industry and academic partners, these innovators create new hybrid technologies that bring together ideas and tools from different “verticals”. The activities culminate with a première performance of newly created works and a live experience for invited audiences. MTF Labs gathered 50 experts from 22 countries to collaborate on participative innovation projects. Some of the participants who met in Aveiro continued to collaborate later on new projects. The most consistent feedback from participants of MTF Labs has been that everyone is very keen to come back and work together again. The event also connected people born and raised Aveiro but who moved abroad. They did not know each other before the event, but are now working together as a result. MTF Labs documentary are published at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6GxZ2xcmZ0&t=503s 

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João Oliveira (Criatech Artistic Residence’s participant)

“The program's objectives to cross STEAM areas and promoting cooperation and dialogue between participants with different interests, alone would be enough to have my full support! I begin by highlighting the quality of programme’s organisation and its artistic mentorships - Cadie Desbiens-Desmeules and Michael Dean – who truly knew how to create an excellent environment, presenting their projects without “secrets”, and sharing useful tips. The tutoring team, composed by designers and engineers, and the possibility to use the equipment available from the Creative Science Park (with its technical staff), gave the resident a valuable learning experience. I also noticed that the selection of residents varied a lot in terms of interests, profiles and objectives, which allowed us to start intense conversations about the activities developed there and outside.

(…) I think that my experience was particularly happy in finding interests and objectives very much aligned with other colleagues, so it was easy to start exploring and identifying the artistic and technological project we wanted to develop, already following prototyping developments in parallel with the conceptual ones. After the 'COVID' interruption, we resumed work with a new plan that was too condensed, although understandable, given the constraints and doubts. Nevertheless, my colleagues and I we were able with very little time to test an entire technical apparatus with micro-controllers, sensors, subwoofers, and other tools, and even feel a sample of the experience we wanted achieve with the project.

This programme allowed me to expand my knowledge and see new artistic projects, deepen technical skills in prototyping and learn new tools, such as, Touch Designer software. In fact, I ended up using it in two works that I developed with my Suspicious Collective during the pandemic opening window in summer 2020: Compasso Incerto at Lisboa Soa, and Prana at Criatech”.

MTF lab
Interview

Sofia Crespo & Feileacan McCormick (MTF Labs Participant)

“MTF Labs Aveiro 2020 was wonderful, we are both feeling so honoured to have been able to participate and get to also visit Aveiro.

We'd say it was refreshing, inspiring and a great opportunity to visit a wonderful place and collaborating with other artists. The program allowed to explore new artistic and creative aspects and new ways of working. We hadn’t had the chance of doing a live performance before, and this experience opened a new world of opportunities for us. We've been collaborating actively with at least 2 different artists we met during MTF. (…) We wish there were more opportunities like this, as they help learn, share creativity, establish new collaborations and expand perspectives, artistically speaking”.

The satisfaction of the users who participated in the various programs described above is quite evident. But what it is most interesting to note is certainly the vastness of the target addressed by ASC project, which is characterized by a very varied stakeholder engagement strategy. Unlike other projects, ASC, which still maintains a focus on the topic of STEAM subjects, is aimed at users of different sexes, of different ages, of different occupational status, with a leitmotif connected to the support of the dissemination of scientific, artistic and technological knowledge.
The value of this stakeholder engagement strategy, with an approach based on the involvement of specific target users rather than a more "flat" and undifferentiated citizen engagement approach, has recently been recognized. In fact, The City of Aveiro was honored at Harvard's Annual City Innovation and Innovator Awards with the 2020 Innovation in Community Engagement Award. The Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard announced the winners at a digital ceremony broadcast on 28th January 2021. The award was presented to the community by the Mayor of Aveiro, José Ribau Esteves, in a press conference held on March 18th. Aveiro was the only city in the EU to be featured on the prestigious list, winning in the category of Community Engagement.

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