How a Physics teacher had a light bulb moment and created a new invention
A piece of stationery which will enhance student learning
Drawing the best fit line by Miles Hudson
Give us a little bit of a background about you. Whilst I am a physics teacher by trade I have my fingers in a few pies making my career history rather fractured so I can indulge my love of travelling. I like to jet off whenever I can, which makes taking on a full-time teaching job rather difficult. Before starting my current part-time role as a PGCE tutor of secondary Physics at Newcastle University in the UK, my last actual ‘school’ job was over three and half years ago. During that break, I have been doing freelance work, which has allowed me to travel to over twenty five countries. Three or four of these have been on paid work assignments but the rest – just me and my rucksack!
What is the type of paid work you have done abroad? I was lucky to get an introduction to the British Council in France a few years ago. Originally, they asked me to run astronomy workshops in French schools, but more recently I seem to be the guy they send anywhere – which is fantastic for me as this satisfies my travel bug. I get to go to places I may never have thought of. When I am not on work assignments abroad, I try to find other work that allows me to travel at my own expense. For example, I have worked for some British and Swedish publishers doing things like editing text books – all of which I can do from my laptop anywhere in the world I choose to be.
Tell me about your invention. It was literally a light bulb moment.
One day I was invigilating a Biology exam, looking over a student’s shoulder, who was answering a question about the best fit line on a scatter graph. This student had a traditional wooden ruler and was having such a hard time because every time he put his ruler on the graph to draw the line, he could no longer see the data points. He was lifting it and putting it back down, trying to look underneath it... It really looked very awkward and that was when I had the idea. I literally ran from the room at the end of the exam and got two clear rulers and sellotaped them together – it was my first prototype, I guess!
My invention is a simple idea – a visual aid to get students to see and understand what a best fit line is. But it works and I was successful in getting a patent for it too. It's called the Best Fit Line Ruler – BFLR for short!
Was it hard to secure the patent for your ruler? I was so happy when I got the patent. It was kind of easy, but kind of hard at the same time. The process is actually quite simple. I did it myself for £130, but you do have to fight to get your patent. I had to rewrite my patent claims twice, and went through seven other inventions where they said someone already had the patent and I had to prove why my product was different and innovative. So that did take time and was sometimes frustrating. The whole process took about a year.
Can students use it in exams? That’s a good question. When I first got the patent I wrote to the exam boards and asked if they would have a problem with students using it, but I never got an answer to the question. The way I look at it is that it’s a bit like a calculator – in that you have to know how to use it. It’s useless if you don’t know what you are doing with it. So in my opinion, there is no reason why you can’t use it in exams as you still need to know what a best fit line is and roughly where it should go.
I made many different variants before getting my end result unique design. I used a factory just outside Durham in the UK who make the plastic blanks and I then personally screen print each ruler in my kitchen! So you really are getting an individually hand-finished ruler!
More information on the Best Fit Line Ruler This is a revolutionary new stationery instrument. It has all the uses of a traditional ruler, but can also help you to draw the best fit line on a scatter graph much more accurately and easily than you can with a traditional ruler. With the grid pattern, you can be really sure that you have the points equally spaced on either side of your best fit line, and as close to it as possible all the way along. Plus it has centimetre and millimetre markings so you still get all the functions of an ordinary ruler!
Use the BFLR to draw your graph and plot the points as normal, then use the grid to locate the best position for the best fit line, as indicated by the central slot in the middle of the ruler. Slide your pencil along this central slot to produce a crisp and accurate best fit line.
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