A secondary school in Sheffield has set up its own Internet of Things network for connected devices to gather data about the environment in the industrial city.

The IoT network was made possible by the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, a charity set up by the founder of WANdisco plc, the public software company jointly headquartered in Silicon Valley and Sheffield.

David and Jane launched the registered charity to advance the education of computer science and ecology in state schools and inspire the next generation of technology entrepreneurs and engineers.

The network is introducing young people to the potential of connected devices and their applications to reduce pollution and improve quality of life in the city.

The foundation has paid for the installation of a long range, wide area network gateway on the roof of Tapton School, allowing thousands of devices to connect from up to 6km away.

Year 9 students are working with Raspberry Pi microcomputers with added sensor boards to measure temperature, pressure, light level, colour, three-axis motion and compass heading.

The small, battery-powered devices are capable of taking 20,000 measurements a day, generating enormous amounts of information which can be analysed to yield new insights about life in the city.

Undergraduates from the Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy at the University of Sheffield worked with the foundation to create and deliver a number of lessons for Tapton students about the Internet of Things and current affairs surrounding climate change.

As part of these lessons, they had the opportunity to meet our Technical Manager Steve Jubb, and see the electric van Mobius (Mobile Urban Sensing) to understand how their local environment is monitored using real-time data.

Steve said: “We enjoyed working with the foundation’s students who showed a real hunger for knowledge and understanding.

“The future of our environment will rest in their hands and we were very happy to show them how to measure the impact of city life on the world around us.”


David Richards said: “Jane and I know how passionate young people are about the health of the planet and we are helping them to measure and analyse the environment.

“We want to encourage students to use their imagination and creativity to apply what they discover for the benefit of the world around us.

“We believe there are enormous environmental, social and economic benefits to be unlocked and we are keen for the students to follow their interests and see where it leads them.

“These are the building blocks of enterprise and entrepreneurship.”

The IoT project is part of a wider curriculum devised by the foundation to introduce students to team-building, data and predictions, statistics and sports analytics, algorithms, privacy, 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 djrff.org 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 also supporting the installation and running of beehives at a number of state schools in the Sheffield area. David and Jane Richards have donated shares in WANdisco plc to fund its work.