This VCU grad’s company may provide the next level in computer science instruction

Michael Smith – who graduated earlier this month from VCU’s Master of Product Innovation program, shows off a piece of Radiant RVA’s prototype learning system that will teach users how to program for wearable technology.

A company that emerged from the da Vinci Center at Virginia Commonwealth University has built a prototype device that may soon teach aspiring programmers how to write code and develop for wireless systems, Bluetooth technology and the internet of things.

Radiant RVA, co-founded by Michael Smith (M.P.I.’16/B), who graduated earlier this month from VCU’s Master of Product Innovation program, is aiming to roll out a curriculum along with an interactive device that will teach programming skills to students of all ages, preparing them for computer science projects and future careers.

“Our focus is on doing something in the digital world and seeing it come to life in the physical world,” Smith said. “With this device, you’re going to learn hardware programming techniques. So, if I do some coding, I can turn the lights on and off. You’re learning how to do coding that interacts with the real world. It’s tangible. You’re able to see it, touch it and hear it.”

The company’s learning system device, called the Vector iQ Learning System, looks a bit like a series of model rocket ships, each featuring lights and sounds. The student will use a smartphone to wirelessly connect to the system, and will write code that manipulates the device — turn the lights on and off, change the lights’ colors, make tones and sounds — all while completing lessons from the accompanying curriculum. As the student progresses through the curriculum they will unlock more advanced modules that cover topics ranging from sensors and data collection to cyber-security principles.

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