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You do the math! Bath developers launch educational app in the States

DoodleMathsAn educational app developed by a husband and wife team in Bath has been launched on the US market after becoming a top-selling educational app on the App Store in the UK.

Tom Minor and Nicola Chilman, who run a company called EZ Education Ltd, have taken their DoodleMaths app for iPhone and iPad over the Pond following 50,000 downloads in the UK.

The app’s content, which in the UK is aimed at Key Stage 2, has been adapted to cater for the elementary school syllabus in the US.

And, with the American market in mind, there has also been a slight tweak to the name – from DoodleMaths to DoodleMath.

The app motivates children to improve their maths by awarding them credits and accessories for their pet character avatar as they tackle each mathematical challenge.

DoodleMathsAs a child uses the app, DoodleMaths uses a feedback algorithm to detect the child’s strengths and weaknesses and develops a continually-evolving programme of study that is tailored to each individual.

It is a busy summer for Tom and Nicola, who in September will launch a version of the app that is aimed at schools. DM Schools will have multi-user functionality and enable teachers to monitor individual and whole-class progress in real time.

Tom and Nicola are both maths teachers, and the idea for the app was inspired by them watching their own children interact with an iPad.

Tom, who along with Nicola also runs the Kip McGrath Education Centre in Bath, said: “I’ve always been passionate about teaching and I had very clear ideas about how I felt maths should be taught even before we had the concept for the app. I’d started to introduce those ideas at the tuition centre and then when I saw our own children pick up an iPad, I realised we could extend the ideas to a much wider audience.

“It’s exciting that we now have an audience in the United States too, although it’s still early days for us in that market. But as maths is such a fundamental, universal skill, we are confident DoodleMath can match the success we’ve had in the UK.”

Nicola Chilman and Tom Minor of DoodleMaths

Nicola Chilman and Tom Minor’s DoodleMaths app has had 50,000 downloads in the UK.

From an early stage children from around the Bath area were involved in the app’s development, with Bathford Primary and Writhlington Schools providing input.

Nicola said: “The feedback we’ve had has been excellent and has inspired us to develop DM Schools. We’ve had children with a DoodleMaths age of eight-and-a-half years and they’ve then made two-and-a-half years of progress in just a few weeks.”

But hitting the top 10 list for educational apps on the UK App Store was something that was only achieved after painstaking research, explained Tom.

“Research is absolutely essential for successful app development,” he said. “Does your idea fill a gap in the App Store? If it doesn’t, think again. If it does, then go for it and get as much feedback as you can along the way.”

More information about the app is available at www.doodle-maths.co.uk.

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Bath school children are robotic challenge WORLD CHAMPIONS!

Seven youngsters from Bath have been named the World Champions in the 2013 Robotics challenge having beaten over 20,000 international teams.

The 11 – 15 year olds making up Bath’s ‘Team Untitled-1′ are from Ralph Allen and King Edward’s schools. They successfully competed at National level, before making the trip to St Louis in America where they proved themselves to be the very best of the 80 teams that made it through to the world finals.

The seven involved in the team are Freya, Tom, Dani, Max, Joe, Rafi and Claudia. They said: “It’s the team here.. Well, we say “team”, but WORLD CHAMPIONS is more appropriate!!!!! Yes, slight shock. We have just beaten 20,000 other teams worldwide becoming number one in Lego Robotics!! Wooo!! We think it’s true because everyone’s taking our picture but we might need a pinch or two!”

You can watch the moment the team found out they’d won here, and visit the team website here.

Thanks are given by the students and their teachers to the Bath companies and organisations that sponsored their team and made it possible for them to become World Champions.

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Congratulations Jack!

University of Bath student Jack Franklin has been named in the 2013 ‘.Net Awards‘ as one of the top ten ‘brilliant young web developers’ to watch.

The .Net Awards are publicly nominated to create a shortlist, which is then assessed by a panel of 50 industry judges.

Jack Franklin is a 3rd year BSc Computer Science student, currently on his placement year with Kainos as a Software Engineer. He is well known in Bath’s digital community and has been very involved in his university community too, as Chair of the Bath Student Computer Science Society in his second year of study, and as a student ambassador for his department.

Jack is highly dedicated to progressing his career as a developer, and wrote one of his first articles in 2011 for ‘12 Devs of Christmas’. He now maintains a popular JavaScript blog – JavaScript Playground – and writes for a number of influential websites.

Jack was recently asked by Addy Osmani to contribute to his book Backbone Fundamentals, which was published by O’Reilly and was freely available on the internet too. He helped to write the chapter on using Backbone with RequireJS. Jack’s first book, Testing with CoffeeScript, was recently published as a free mini book and has had over 2000 downloads to date. The book looks at TDD with the JS library Jasmine, whilst writing all the code in CoffeeScript.

Jack was approached in June 2012 to write his first physical book, Beginning jQuery, which was published in February 2013. The book aims to guide a JavaScript and jQuery novice through to a level at which they’re comfortable in writing their own plugins.

Alan Hayes, Jack’s tutor at the University of Bath, said: “Jack is one of those students who makes the most of every opportunity available to him. He continues to impress as he progresses through university, and is set for great heights in the future. We wish him all the best with the .Net awards and commend his achievement in being named ‘one to watch’.”

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Jowst acquired by Xfire

Bath startup Jowst has announced this week that it has been acquired by US based Xfire.

Jowst is a community platform that aims to centralise a players gaming experience. For both casual and competitive gamers it aims to offer a comprehensive and unique reward and results system to show each player’s achievements and losses through their public profile.

Founder and CEO Gavin Weeks said: “We’re very excited to announce that Jowst has been acquired by Xfire.

“We are very passionate about rewriting the rules of how gamers create, host and participate in tournaments and are confident our product is capable of delivering this. Now we’re joining the Xfire team to accomplish a much bigger vision — one that can only be achieved with Xfire’s support and guidance. We’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our alpha testers who have supported us and given us priceless feedback, allowing us to build the foundations of a fantastic product.

“We have had an amazing experience building Jowst over the last 18 months and look forward to continuing to do so as part of the Xfire family. Full speed ahead!”

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Real World Hack weekend winners

IMG_5883Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios welcomed developers and designers from across the UK when it hosted a hack weekend as part of the Bath Digital Festival. The inspirational setting and broad spread of participants made for a unique event. The challenge was for participants to create an app using either or both of two APIs created by companies who have Peter Gabriel as an investor: The Filter (a recommendation engine for music, movies and TV shows) and Gabble (a visual language). And things were spiced up a little with cash prizes for the best teams.

Eleven teams took part across the weekend and we were delighted with what was achieved by such a broad range of participants. But as with all competitions, there has to be winners. The team of judges included Neil Andrassy from The Filter and Tree, Jamie Middleton, Katrina James and myself from Gabble. And, here are the four winners as well as a special mention to a fifth team:

Overall winner (prize: £500) – Frabble


The Frabble team mashed up The Filter API with the Gabble API and delivered a Facebook game that was a whisker from being ready to launch. The game takes a random film from The Filter API, feeds it through Gabble to offer the player a series of pictures that they need to decipher to guess the name of the movie. If the player wants, they can reveal some hints (also from The Filter API) like the name of the director, year of release and genre… The Frabble team have asked for their prize to be donated to Child’s Play.

Special Commendation for Creativity & Imagination (prize: £500) – Gabbetar


Jack Hopkins demonstrated the most ambition and imagination for Gabbetar, a tree of connected images that was created from mashing up several APIs including Gabble and The Filter. Jack fed tweets & Facebook status updates through Gabble to display a tree of connected images based on what was important to the user in the moment. Incredible imagination and all the more impressive as Jack was abandoned by his two other team mates half way through Saturday!

Special Commendation for Effort (prize: £500) – Idiom Hangman


The Hangman team achieved as much in just one day as most of the other teams did in the whole weekend. Their app took English idioms, displayed them as pictures (via Gabble) and once the user guessed them correctly, they were given the translation into Mandarin. The app had a fully working scoring mechanism and a hangman graphic that develops as the user makes incorrect guesses. The judges were not only impressed with the effort that went into this app but also delighted with the educational angle.

Special Commendation for Viability (prize: £500) – Gabblr

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 12.06.13

Gabblr is a collaborative turn-based social game. Players provide one another hints (using Gabble) to work out the phrase or word. The Gabble team were especially taken by the simple yet potentially addictive nature of the game and felt that this project was probably the one that could be most turned into a viable game – all the more impressive because this team was made up of three 1st year CompSci undergraduates from The University of Bath!

Special mention to “Beyond Words”

In stark contrast to all the coding and mashing up of APIs, there was one team that decided to take a very different approach and hack the Gabble idea rather than the code. This team, made up of Robert Thomas (Interactive Music Composer at rjdj), Kelly Snook (Imogen Heap’s Studio Manager) and Katerina Janouskova (photographer) presented a personal communication and artistic expression concept using multi-media to make incredibly strong and deeply personal pieces of digital art. Though no code was cut, this team gave Gabblers the most food for thought and for that we are very grateful.

IMG_5889Congratulations to all the winners and a big thank you to all who took part. The feedback we received from the teams was that the setting and the vibe for the whole weekend was truly unique. Typical quote: “It was a great weekend – so good to have time to think about solving other people’s problems in such a wonderful environment”. More photos of the weekend can be viewed on Facebook.
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The SPARKies 2013 shortlist!

We’re pleased to reveal those shortlisted for The SPARKies 2013 awards – celebrating the very best of the region’s digital and tech sector.

The winners will be announced during a fantastic awards ceremony on Wednesday 20 March hosted by award-winning comedian Jarred Christmas at Komedia Bath. Tickets for the ceremony will be available to buy through the Komedia website from Tues 5 March.

The ceremony is made possible by the kind support of our headline sponsors the Innovation Centre, our gold sponsors Eden Ventures, The Agency and Deloitte, and also all of our silver sponsors.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be posting longer pieces through this blog on each category, so do check back to see the stories behind our 2013 shortlist.

Congratulations to all of our shortlisted entries, presented here in no particular order:

The One to Watch in 2013
Mike Barlow @ myHealthPal

Individual contribution to tech
Stuart Farrimond
Paul Kane
Phil Willis

Best tech entrepreneur
Mike Barlow
Glynn Hayward
Mark Mason

Best mentor/adviser
Mike Wilsher
Gavin Eddy
Rob Brown

Totally Killing It – competing globally from the south west
The Agency
Catchy Agency

The Good Award
Charlotte Caulkin for TEDxYouth
Neil Burgess for Cura
Marcelle Speller for Localgiving.com

Best Service Provider to the Tech Sector
The Innovation Centre

Future SPARK
Urban Tribe
James Isbister & Alex Marshall
Ollie Marshall

Best Digital Design Project
Future Insights
The Agency
Complete Control – World Book Day

Best App of 2012
Mubaloo & the Met Office
Opposable Games

Biggest Success Story of 2012
Rockpool Digital
Complete Control

Best Startup
Opposable Games

Competition this year was extremely high and our judges struggled to form a shortlist. Congratulations must also go to those who came really close to making the list, and were highly commended by judges, inlcuding; StoreNextDoor, Steel Media, Hammer, Mac Format, Creative Bloq and WeLoveBath.

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Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios welcomes hackers

Over 100 computer hackers are being welcomed to Real World Studios owned by musician and digital pioneer Peter Gabriel as part of the Bath Digital Festival.

Even though Peter is best known as a singer & songwriter thanks to a highly successful career spanning over 45 years, he has also been making waves as an innovator in the digital sector having founded and/or invested in the likes of OD2 (digital music distribution service), We7 (music streaming), The Filter (recommendation engine) and Witness.org (a service that uses the power of video and storytelling to denounce human rights abuses) to name but a few.

A hack is an event in which computer programmers and others in the field of software development, like graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects to improve or add to them creatively.

The two-day hack event at Real World will take place on 16 and 17 March, and is focused on a new visual language called Gabble developed by Gabriel and his team. The team hope that the event will result in the realisation of new and exciting applications for Gabble.

Peter Gabriel said: “The original Gabble idea was to create a universal visual language – enabling people to add short video clips & images into their communications to replace words and pictures.

“So far, we have created a website and an iPad app that matches words and phrases to pictures and animations and we are now exploring the use of the dictionary for a range of gaming and educational applications. I am sure that Gabble will initially be used for making funny and irreverent apps, but there are many potential serious applications that will follow.”

David Maher Roberts, who is heading up the project for Peter said: “We are really interested to see the ideas that come out of the hack days. Gabble has the potential to power so many different apps and bring about a universal conversation. And for us, this hack weekend enables us to start exploring how far we can go with it.”

There are fantastic prizes up for grabs for hackers taking part in the weekend, which will recognise the technical ability and teamwork seen by judges. Each day of the weekend will see two £500 awards presented, one for the best hack technically, and the other for the best team, focused on ideas, teamworking, tech and overall delivery.

There is also the potential for hackers to impress the Gabble team enough with their app to be in with a chance of securing a £10,000 investment opportunity from Peter Gabriel to take the app to full production.

Places for the hack event are booking up quickly. Those interested need to have strong, proven coding or design skills in order to get the most out of the weekend, and can apply for a place at http://2013.bathdigitalfestival.com/events/real-world-hack/

More details about the Gabble API are available here.

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Bath Digital Festival website launched!

The website for Bath Digital Festival has gone live today. The Festival will place from 14 – 24 March, is jam packed with events celebrating our city’s digital sector.

Headline events include the return of the internationally acclaimed X Media Lab, a hack weekend at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studio, the SPARKies digital awards, a family weekend of digital events in Queen’s Square and Britain’s very first Rails Girls event.

Other events over the course of the week include talks and discussions on a variety of subjects, a performance of Kraftwerk music by the Balenescu Quartet, a WordPress workshop, a return of Ignite Bath and BathCamp, code clubs for local school children, and a design hack event, among others.

To see the website and a full programme of Bath Digital Festival events visit www.bathdigitalfestival.com

Entries for The SPARKies are open for four more days at http://thesparkies.com.

You can join our Facebook group or our LinkedIn group, keep and eye on this blog or follow us on Twitter for further updates on Festival events.

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24PullRequests – Andrew Nesbitt

At the last BathCamp I met Andrew Nesbitt, who has recently moved to the area and was the driving force behind 24PullRequests – a hugely popular festive project to encourage developers to contribute back to open source software. The project ran from 1st to 24th December 2012.

Andrew describes himself as a ‘passionate, full stack developer, who loves experimenting with new technologies and techniques to help ship kick ass products on the web’, and he has kindly put together this post about his ’24PullRequests’ experience. 


andrewnesbitt“I came up with the idea for 24PullRequests during November when a few friends were participating in Movember, the viral nature of everyone growing moustaches made me wonder if the same approach could work for contributing to open source software on GitHub.

As a web developer, I use open source software on a daily basis. Ruby on Rails, Node.js and WordPress are all open source – you can download and view the source code of the project.

One of the most popular places to find open source software is GitHub, which provides a great way to contribute, the “pull request“.

The idea behind 24PullRequests is for developers to try and send 24 separate pull requests to open source projects during the month of December – think of it like an advent calendar for developers.

When I launched the site on 1st December it was a very simple, static HTML web page that explained the idea. I made the site open source and uploaded the site to GitHub and submitted the site to Hacker News.

The initial reception was excellent and developers quickly started to add functionality to the site, like the ability to login using your GitHub account and record all the pull requests you sent.

Over 1000 developers signed up to the site over the first couple days. This popularity caused a couple of problems!

The influx of traffic began to slow the website down, but luckily we had used Heroku to host the site so scaling up was a piece of cake.

The second problem was the sheer amount of pull requests being sent to the project itself. The developers participating were fixing bugs, adding features and even correcting typos on the site – managing all of them was taking a long time.

Thankfully the developers stepped up again and a team formed around the project to help out with the influx of activity.

By Christmas Day we had recorded 3175 pull requests on 1498 different projects from 886 developers, a massive success and some brilliant contributions to the world of open source software.

After the success of 2012, we’re are going to run the project again in December 2013. If you would like to get involved you can sign up to the site now and you’ll receive an email a bit closer to Christmas.”

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Launched from Bath: myTalky social voicemail

Bath-based developers Alamex Limited have launched their new app ‘myTalky‘ this week which allows users to record and send audio messages.

The electronic message system can send audio messages of up to 140 seconds long to social network contacts via Twitter.  Users log in to myTalky through their web browser or can download the app, record their message, and send it either privately to individual contacts or publicly to all their followers.

Alamex Limited has been creating apps, websites and white labelling digital services for more than a decade. The company is best known for its visual communication app iHi and its translation version, iHi Translate.

Founder and CEO Neil Stanley said: “We are really excited to launch not just a new venture – but what we believe is a completely new concept: Social Voicemail. No-one else is offering an audio service that connects via the social network and is so intuitive and useful.  myTalky is unique.”

With a growing team of developers worldwide and two more significant launches planned for early next year, 2013 promises to be an exciting year for Alamex.

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