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A Love of Learning Drives Colin

Mike Fowler —

It’s no surprise that when Hard Materials Technology Leader, Teacher Colin Powick, completed a character strengths analysis at the start of the year ‘love of learning’ came out on top.

Colin has a long-term interest in electronics and engineering. Over his career, that interest has seen him work in telecommunications and information technology in industry settings, then to training as a teacher and teaching positions at Rangiora Borough, Chisnallwood and Linwood. That love of learning led him to study in Hagley’s School of Animation in 2016, complementing that course with university papers, then to being appointed to the Hagley staff at the end of last year.

Colin’s fascination with electronics and engineering has led to another long-term interest in robotics. Colin describes robotics as being about repeating a mechanical operation, with the electronics being the control side. Students programme a micro controller which they link to various kinds of sensors [which might process a wide range of data, like proximity, sound, movement, or heat]. The outputs from the controller can be motors that drive various linkages and levers. The types of robotics projects students are undertaking this year are really diverse. Colin has students already working on a vehicle, a hand which can move, and even an owl!

Robotics crosses over many subject areas at Hagley and Colin is keen to continue to develop these. In Gavin Hewitt’s Animation course with Colin’s input, students have already taken their on-screen designs and given them a physical presence through robotics – for example, making a head that can move.

Colin has been talking too with Head of Fashion School Vicki Dixon about using e-textiles. Students build in neo pixel units to their garments, with programme chips that can turn on LEDs which choreograph with music via a microphone sensor, so that the LEDs become a living part of the garment when displayed in a fashion show.

A vital collaboration is with Computing Teacher Fong Chong, who can enhance students’ programming skills. Colin would love to work alongside Fong as well as Vicki, Gavin and others. The studio hub, which is part of Hagley’s wish list for its redevelopment, could make this a reality where teachers like Colin, Fong, Vicki, Gavin and others could be co-located sharing a project-based learning approach.

As Hard Materials Technology Leader, Colin is developing the programme so that there is more choice for students as they develop their own briefs and designs. Students are not restricted in the materials they can use either, expanding from metal and wood into plastics, foam and acrylics; and of course, into making things move which is where the robotics comes in.

With his energy and ‘love of learning’ attitude, Colin always has plenty on the go. The answer Colin gives when asked for advice or input is invariably ‘yes’. As he says himself, he needs to learn to say ‘no’ more – but it’s a good problem to have in an area that is flourishing!