Innovation through Inspiration: open source announcement

Earlier this year, the Tesco Labs team began looking into how we could inspire primary school children to study STEM subjects – today, we’re delighted to share what we’ve developed.

Through our research into diversity in technology, we discovered that children as young as 4 years old form stereotypes around gender roles in various careers; with the result that many girls are less keen to study STEM subject than boys. As a result, we’ve tailored our outreach activities for primary school children to impress upon them that technology is not just “for boys” and that opportunities exist in a range of diverse roles within the technology industry. You may have read about our first activity, when we spent the day with Key Stage 1 students at Roundwood Primary School in Harpenden. (If you missed it, read the blog post here).

We used “Cubetto“, Primo Toys’ friendly wooden robot which teaches children the basics of programming through hands on play and adventure. In order to give the activity a retail technology slant, we worked with Ape Creative to produce customised accessories for the robot, giving it a simplified Tesco store layout to navigate around, whilst challenging the children to collect specific items from a bespoke shopping list; all to be gathered in their personalised shopping trolley.

The success of the activity, and the popularity amongst both schools and parents, has been overwhelming. We’ve connected with around 250 children so far, and intend to continue to grow this as much as we possibly can. So, we were delighted to be invited to talk about our work on stage at Retail Week’s Tech event this week.

The talk about our work, given by Head of Tesco Labs, Angela Maurer, not only covered the why, where and how of our work, but also the passion that the team have for continuing to address the gender imbalance in our industry, and the challenges that we face if we try to continue to do this as individuals. Which is why we are delighted to be able to open this activity up to other retailers, and look to give the opportunity to connect with schools in the same way to as many companies as possible.

From today, we are open sourcing all the materials we have used to bring this activity to life; from the tried and tested activity plan through to the bright and beautiful accessories created specifically with this in mind. If you would like to deliver this activity then all you will need to do is download the items and purchase the Cubetto kits that you need.

The links below allow you to download the pdf files of the original artwork. If you would like to download the indesign files, please email the Tesco Labs team who will be happy to share these.

Activity playbook

Print materials
Shop Layout Mat
Produce Cards
Shopping Lists

Primo Toys

Ape Creative

Finally, we’d love to hear your stories of the activities you lead using these tools! If you’d like to share them, please feel free to share them via email or twitter.

Meet Mewbase – our first open source project

Many of us are already familiar with Open Source.

It grew in popularity with the rise of the Internet and a need for retooling  of computing source code. However not many are aware that it’s something which is becoming more and more popular with corporate businesses. Generally, open source refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification, something which has several key advantages. In particular, as a typically collaborative effort, it generates positive technical mindshare.

With a view to remaining innovative, and wanting to collaborate with the best in technology, we have begun work in this area and in November announced the release of our first Open Source project – “Mewbase”.

Developed by Tim Fox from Tesco Technology, Mewbase provides a way for our services and applications to manage their events and data, eliminating the need for them to communicate with other databases and event stores. Moving forward, our aim is to provide tools so our teams can generate a new working service from scratch in seconds from metadata.

This follows work which has identified that our services and applications are spending significant time re-implementing eventing, messaging and communications logic in similar but somewhat different ways from service to service. Using a consistent approach through Mewbase will allow our development teams to get services and apps to market faster thus freeing them up to push the boundaries of development, without being bogged down in building already “solved” problems. The knock on effect of this will be that our operations are faster and more effective, allowing us to work more efficiently.

If you would like to get involved with Mewbase, please visit our Google group, or come and chat with us on our irc channel #mewbase on