Talk into your sleeve, mate, I can't hear you properly

15th January 2010 at 00:00
It's still a mac, but not as you know it. East Lothian pupils put 21st-century spin on an old favourite

Charles MacIntosh discovered that putting a layer of rubber between two layers of cloth would make a garment waterproof. His invention, which became known as the Macintosh raincoat, was first used in 1824 during an Arctic expedition.

A tough act to follow, you might think, but pupils taking part in the Enterprising Inventors Challenge, held in Glasgow, where Macintosh was born, were recently set the task of coming up with a mac fit for the year 2100.

The winners - 10 P7s from Dunbar Primary in East Lothian - came up with "Ma' Coat" at the final in the Glasgow Science Centre.

Ma' Coat has a built-in mobile phone, which allows the wearer to talk by speaking into the jacket's cuff, like a secret agent. Hidden in the collar are speakers for listening to an MP3 player, also concealed in the jacket. Ma' Coat is designed to grow with its owner, so it's always a perfect fit, and to keep the wearer warm in winter and cool in summer.

The idea was "original and unique", said Stuart Millar, chief executive of Young Enterprise Scotland, which organised the Enter- prising Inventors Challenge in partnership with Determined to Succeed. The competition, now in its third year, attracted entrants from 15 local authorities - 10 schools in each.

The regional heats took place across Scotland at the beginning of November, when P7 pupils were first challenged to "modernise" a Scottish invention related to science and technology. After learning about a number of discoveries from actors in the guise of inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Telford, the groups created posters which were presented to the judging panel.

Dunbar Primary was paired with Kirkpatrick MacMillan, inventor of the bicycle, and had to design a modern-day version. Their winning invention was capable of carrying its passengers across the Channel, but it was Ma' Coat in the final that secured the team the Scottish title.

"They were delighted, and rightly so," said Gordon Mackenzie, depute head at Dunbar. "They had a short time to come up with their invention and just 15-20 minutes to think up their presentation, which had to be like an advert. Some adults would have considered that a tall order."

On the same day the Dunbar pupils walked away as Scotland's most enterprising young inventors, the High School of Glasgow and Douglas Academy, East Dunbartonshire, triumphed in the Scottish final of the Make Your Mark Challenge, in the 14-16 and 16-19 categories respectively.

Part of the UK's largest one-day enterprise competition, this saw teams from across the country present their ideas on how local inspiration could lead to a "cool" creation. The High School, which came up with a rickshaw taxi service for Glasgow (14-16 years category), and Douglas Academy, which thought of a bicycle hire service for Glasgow (16-19 years category), represented Scotland at the final in London last month. Neither team scooped the UK trophy but High School pupils won the "financial whizz" award for their careful consideration of income and expenditure.


TELEVISION: John Logie Baird, a Helensburgh-born engineer, helped produce the first working TV. In 1922 he created a photo-mechanical device and in 1925 produced a live, moving TV picture, before the first images were broadcast across the Atlantic in 1928.

TELEPHONE: Alexander Graham Bell invented this electronic device to help deaf children communicate. The Edinburgh teacher's invention was patented in 1876. Today there are more than 500 million telephones across the globe.

ENGINEERING: Thomas Telford was born in Glendinning in the Borders and became a renowned civil engineer, architect and stonemason, and a noted road, bridge and canal builder. His crowning achievement was the design and construction (1819-26) of the Menai Bridge in Wales.

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