Learning around F1…?!;-) learndirect Sponsor Marussia F1 Team

I often get quizzical looks when I drop F1 related visualisations into random presentations (“Tony slacking around again”), whereas if I said “Raspberry Pi” then it would somehow be rather more legitimate… However, one of the ways I see it is that I’m trying to engage in an informal way with a large audience in a target demographic, a significant proportion of which are prequalified as ‘interested in STEM’. I’m also trying to engage, albeit slackly, in some sort of weak knowledge transfer (hey, motor racing folk: you increasingly haz data, and maybe there are ways of visualising it to try and gain value from it that you haven’t really thought about yet…)

In case you didn’t already know, motorsport is worth shedloads* to quite a lot* of UK companies in both domestic and export sales and employs probably more than seven* people. (*Official trade association stats.)

Anyway, what prompted this post? This did:

Check out the sponsor...

learndirect as sponsor of the Marussia F1 Team?!

I have to admit, for some reason I associate learndirect with DirectGov, the government one stop-shop (will gov.uk be rebranded as DirectGov when it comes out of beta, I wonder? Or will DirectGov go the way of the open2.net and be quietly run down and then out?!)… but the truth of the matter is that learndirect is a VCprivate equity operated outfit, “the UK’s leading online learning provider”, apparently, “[acquired in] October 2011 [by LDC] … in a transaction valued in the order of £40 million.” LDC Portfolio: learndirect.

Ah, here’s where my memory tricked me (like it does with supermarket and bank “promises”…): “LDC bought learndirect by acquiring its parent Ufi Limited from the Ufi Charitable Trust (UCT). UCT, a registered charity, was set up in 1998 to use new technology to transform the delivery of learning and skills.” Ufi, of course, was the University for Industry, an ill-fated government venture that I seem to remember the OU partnered to a certain extent…

So why would LDC be splashing the learndirect brand all over the MarussiaF1 racing car (aside from the fact the learndirect owners LDC also have a stake in the Marussia F1 team (one aim of which is to “meet our latent sponsorship potential”, which presumably means getting sponsorship mileage for other LDC companies?), as well as having at least one person on both the learndirect and Marussia Virgin(?, or should that be F1?) Racing boards…

And there was me thinking there were absolutely no opportunities for wrangling F1 freebies, seeing as I am stuck in the education sector… Hmmm… time to dig out some of my old science, technology, engineering and maths outreach pitches, maybe…?! (If anyone at the Marussia F1 Racing team fancy chatting about exploring the use of data visualisation either for outreach, or maybe in research, please feel free to get in touch…:-) The (nearby, Milton Keynes based) OU also has various lab facilities and experience in instrumentation (including space flown instruments – so good on the heat, mass, volume and vibration front, I’m guessing…?), materials and CFD (though I suspect too much CFD may be something of a sore point!?), and I’ll happily put you in touch with folk who can tell you more if you’re interested…;-) There’s also some experience in Twitter audience interest profiling, heh heh;-)

PS MarussiaF1 also happen to have appointed a female test driver, Maria de Villota, which may or may not also be a good thing as far as WISE-like initiatives go (I know the drivers aren’t engineers, but it’s a aspiration-related funnel thing; see also James Allen on Why aren’t there more women engineers in F1, where he writes: “F1 in Schools has a very high ratio of female competitors, around 35%, and all-girl teams are quite common. And yet when they get to around 15 years of age, the numbers fall away and few girls pursue engineering degrees.”)

PPS During National Motorsport Week last year, I won a trip round the Marussia(-Virgin, as it then was) F1 factory in Dinnington, near Sheffield (it’s since moved to Banbury; the factory, that is, not Dinnington…;-). Here’s the obligatory blog post: Marussia Virgin Racing F1 Factory Visit. Btw, National Motorsport Week runs again this year too: National Motorsport Week 2012).

PPPS this reminds me of a noticing by @barnstormed (?) a couple of weeks ago that the OU had an ad on ?rotating digital hoardings during Six Nations rugby? (Confirmed by @stuartbrown: “the ou was advertising on boards during scot vs england in the 6 nations rugby”. Photo of that anyone?) Anyone got other examples of education related orgs sponsoring sports to a significant extent?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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