Nurturing the engineers of tomorrow to create innovative inventions is vital to a thriving industry, and RS Components is facilitating this in numerous ways. Our reporter went to visit the company and took a ride on its Innovation in Motion
truck to see how ideas become reality and new products are brought to market.
This truck is travelling across the country showcasing some of the latest innovations in engineering. Today it’s visiting this school in London to inspire potential future engineers.
So the idea is to get these children to take a STEM subject: science, technology, engineering and maths, to spark their imagination from a young age.
“I think it’s cool and it’s got loads of good tech in it.”
“Does it make you want to be an engineer?”
“Yes, ‘cause it’s a bit exciting and I like how you can make really cool gadgets.”
The Innovation in Motion truck is kitted out by RS Components, the leading distributor of electronic, electrical and industrial components. It visits schools, universities and workplaces. It wants to bring the fun back into engineering, supporting education and innovation.
The company helped to bring the tiny and affordable computer Raspberry Pi
to market and now this: pi-top. Jesse is one of the co-founders.
“So this is pi-top. It’s a build it yourself, Raspberry Pi-based laptop. So it’s like a big Lego laptop, you snap everything together, it takes about 45 minutes to build and there’s no soldering required. Once you have built it, you have a fully functioning laptop. So you’ve got your little Raspberry Pi there, and we have a modular rail that lets you snap other bits and pieces into it.”
Jesse and his business partner were helped by DesignSpark
, an online community for engineers created by RS Components. It’s accessed in 200 countries by half a million engineers. It offers free software and mechanical CAD tools to turn ideas into reality.
“Historically, it’s been expensive and it’s been hard to learn to get involved with designing technology at a high level. But we’ve removed those barriers. It’s now free of charge, it’s easy to learn and there’s no ongoing cost to support.”
Jesse used DesignSpark’s PCB software to create the first pi-top prototype in his front living room. It took just nine months.
“It really helps to have something like DesignSpark, ‘cause DesignSpark’s free, it’s unlimited in its use, so we were able to take that piece of software and create the very first pi-top prototype. So DesignSpark was basically the reason we were able to make the first prototypes so quickly.”
“What we’re really passionate about as an organisation is being proactive with our customers. We want to be the first to be bringing that innovation, those new products to market. We want to be helping our customers to solve problems.”
RS Components is now one of the main distributors of pi-top. The company has over one million customers around the world, with operations across 32 countries and a global network of distribution centres worldwide. They ship more than 44,000 parcels a day.
“Our job is really to help suppliers take their products out into the marketplace, and we do that through the way we work through digital channels, through DesignSpark, we identify evangelists, people who are going to adopt the products and then start advocating that product use to other users, and by that we help our suppliers build their word of mouth.”
“We’re very fortunate to be working with over 2,500 of the world’s largest OEMs and suppliers, and what that means is that we can bring to our customers all of that knowledge and intelligence.”
“By 2020 there’ll be 40 billion devices, things connected to the Internet and communicating without us interacting with them. Technology’s not stopping. People need to get involved with those designs, with that technology, and have access to the world that enables them to design that technology.”
Jesse’s company has also built a desktop called pi-topCEED. Just like pi-top, when a new Raspberry Pi device gets released, you can take your old Raspberry Pi out and insert the new one.
“The whole idea behind that is to, let’s get a truly affordable STEM platform in schools, in code clubs; let’s actually make Raspberry Pi just super easy to use in any format.”