Lancaster University

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Student inventor headhunted by blue-chip firms

10/19/2006 12:12:30

Blair Chalmers
Blair Chalmers

A student from Lancaster University is in demand with employers after inventing a potential new product for the computer giant IBM.

Blair Chalmers has been headhunted by two blue-chip firms after he successfully led a project to devise new educational software while on an internship at IBM.There are now six applications pending for Intellectual Property Rights on the group’s invention which IBM may develop commercially.

lair is in the final year of a BSc in Marketing Management at Lancaster University Management School.After a year’s placement at the Madrid offices of management consultants Accenture, he was one of only 16 undergraduates in the UK chosen for IBM’s Extreme Blue Innovation Programme.

The scheme challenges a group of four undergraduates to develop the technology and business plan for a new product or service.Blair led the team which was supported by IBM technical and business mentors who shared resources and ideas.

He said: “I’m really chuffed because the whole experience was phenomenal and things have snowballed from there. It was a very rigorous assessment just to get on the Programme but once there it was as good as it sounded and I was working with some of their top people. It’s fantastic for my CV and that really helped get me the job offers.”

Blair and his team spent 12 weeks at IBM’s offices near Winchester where they developed virtual learning for the classroom after visiting local schools.

“We watched the teachers do presentations but the software was generic and not tailored to education. So we devised a personalised tool for teachers where they can create worksheets with an electronic clipboard.
We asked teachers what they wanted and they said they’d like to tag the worksheet from the curriculum like an electronic filing cabinet.We’ve also created instant feedback so when the students are sitting doing work on their computer, the teacher can monitor them from thumbnails on-screen.And we’ve colourcoded groupwork projects so each student’s contribution is clear.”

At the end of the project, the team flew to an Expo at La Gaude in France where they met other student teams from across Europe and had the chance to demonstrate their projects before senior IBM executives.

A spokeswoman for IBM said: “This unique scheme gives the students a fantastic opportunity to take ownership of a project on what is effectively a blank canvas.The experience gained on the scheme is invaluable and allows the students exposure to senior technical and executive IBM staff throughout the programme.The project allows the students to build strong networks early on in their careers with the hope of a good start to the future.”