School’s virtual cat is a hit with students

A school in Cambridge has commissioned an art installation in the form of a virtual cat to teach students about science and sustainability.

Trumpington community college commissioned a team of digital artists to create Cinder, a mixed-reality architectural interface.

She can change size and appears on a screen in the school’s main atrium, where she interacts with students, staff and guests.

She also randomly appears on laptops and tablets around the school, with pupils having the option of feeding her, depending on how much energy
the school has produced from its solar panels, or they can shoo her away.


Cinder took two years to develop, and was designed to help pupils understand the school’s sustainable technology. She changes mood depending on data use in the building.

John Jones, Trumpington’s headteacher, explains: “The cat is linked to the data within the building such as our energy and water use, so its mannerisms reflect the way the building is feeling. If we’re low on energy, the cat gets lazy and doesn’t want to play.

The digital mirror that allows Cinder to appear
The digital mirror that allows Cinder to appear

“Cinder also wears different hats depending on what the weather is like. She can wear little umbrella hats or a sunshade hat – it all gets the students thinking about the interaction of the building with the weather, if more heating is required and what impact that has on the school’s use of energy.”

Cinder appears on laptop screen

Students worked alongside a team of designers and coders from tech company Umbrellium during a series of workshops held to design the installation. They chose a cat to reflect schools that once had real felines to keep mice under control.

Jones added: “We wanted to do something slightly different really, not just have a picture on the wall or a sculpture, but something that was going to evolve over time and that the students would be able to interact with.

“It’s all incredibly clever stuff.”

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  1. I love the idea of increasing the level of interaction between students and a school’s energy consumption and ken to see if we can ask Cinder to be part of displays provided to Schools under the Solarforschools.co.uk service. If this helps more schools go solar, so much the better. Schools in the UK could save about 50,000 tonnes of Carbon emissions a year by installing solar funded by third parties such as ethical funds and parents.
    Could someone make an introduction to the team at Trumpington community college?