- Shelley Frape who teaches at Andover’s Harrow Way School was frustrated with the traditional protractor that has not been changed for around 100 years.
- The children we finding it confusing and making mistakes by reading the wrong numbers or incorrectly positioning the protractor on the page.
- Shelley, who is interviewed in full below, had the basic idea for some time but was unsure how to proceed.
However, after a chance meeting at a dinner party she was introduced to Hampshire based Idea Reality – a product development consultancy who specialises in helping inventors and start-up businesses. Shelley came into their Andover studio for a meeting to discuss her idea and how to best take it forward.
The design team outlined the development process, created the design and then made up some prototypes for her to test with her class and other teachers.
The testing was a crucial part to prove the design really helped. This highlighted areas for improvement as the product was developed but also proved without a doubt that the new design really helped the children and was universally accepted.
A crucial step that Idea Reality helped with was protecting the idea. The team applied for a design registration on Mrs Frape’s behalf that protects the graphical layout of the new design. This meant that she was free to show the design publically and had stronger intellectual property to profit from.
Armed with a mountain of evidence and support from the teaching community she approached the biggest player in the market for maths stationary – Maped Helix.
Helix were really impressed and have agreed a licencing deal with Mrs Frape allowing her to profit from the idea for years to come and get her new protractor in thousands of classrooms.
“Thanks so much for all your help. You really do what your name suggests - you helped get the idea in my head to become a real product.
You and your team guided me through the whole process from start to finish and at every stage were very helpful, efficient and took great care with the finer details.
I will definitely recommend you to anyone else who needs that helping hand turning their idea into a reality! Thanks.”
Shelley Frape, 2019
Interview with Shelley Frape - the inventor of the new protractor.
1) Hi Shelley, thank you for taking the time to come and see us here at the design studio during the school holidays. You are a maths teacher. What age years do you teach? Can you tell us about your background?
Yes, I am a secondary maths teacher and currently teach pupils aged 11-16 (years 7 – 11). I have been teaching maths for the last ten years and every time I have to get the pupils to use their protractors, my heart sinks as I know that pupils find it a difficult object to use and find it very confusing. It has always been a cause of frustration for me and other maths teachers and we have often moaned about it, for a long time, until one day I decided to do something about it and I contacted Idea Reality through a recommendation.
2) Can you tell us about what problem the children were facing? Was this particular to your classroom/pupil’s age. What was the issue exactly?
The children were using a piece of equipment which they found confusing - they read the numbers the wrong way round or positioned the protractor incorrectly. As a result, I identified three basic problems:
1st The ‘wasted’ space at the base of the protractor which made the answers up to 5 degrees out
2nd The two sets of numbers was a cause of huge confusion (clockwise- anticlockwise)
3rd The pupils were not thinking about ‘acute’ and obtuse’ when measuring so I addressed this issue with the use of colour.
3) When did you have the “light bulb” moment? How did you come up with an idea to solve it? How long have you had this idea for and why did you decide to do something about it?
I had this idea for at least 8 years and one day I decided to come to Idea Reality with a sketch of my own and I explained my idea to them who then produced the graphics and added arrows. With Idea Reality’s help, I redesigned the protractor:
• The ‘wasted’ space at the bottom of the protractor was removed so that the zero line was now the base of the protractor.
• I removed the anticlockwise set of numbers so that only the clockwise numbers remain
• The use of colour and arrows to indicate the idea of acute and obtuse angles.
4) Can you tell us how did it develop from here?
Idea Reality helped me get prototypes made so that I was able to test them and get some feedback about them. Once I was happy with the prototype, Idea Reality advised me to apply for the Design Registration which I duly did.
5) We made 20 samples for you to test. Then you came up with your own plan for testing and research. Can you tell us a bit about your plan? Did you test in your school only? Did you also test with different ages?
I contacted both primary and Secondary schools, both State and Independent, ensuring that the teachers signed my NDA form before we started but this then enabled me to get some feedback from the teachers and pupils about the new protractor. There was plenty of positive feedback and I responded to their comment about the middle section being too congested so Idea Reality helped me again with the graphics and the production of a second prototype. This prototype was also tested and we received some more feedback.
6) You came with an official report to support your idea after testing it for a while, so you basically had proven that the new “protractor” was working better and you had solved a problem. Did you ally with school teachers, parents associations, head teachers to support your testing? Can you tell us about this?
I liaised with school teachers as I mentioned. I also contacted exam Boards and PIXL (an organisation committed to improving learning for pupils in various subjects) asking them for feedback about whether they thought the new protractor would be acceptable in their exams and whether it might help pupils more with their learning. We had two versions of the protractor at this point, a non-worded version and a worded one. The non-worded version would be acceptable for use in exams in secondary school. By the end of all my research I had a few reports from primary, secondary schools and PIXL.
7) How did you organise a meeting with “Maped Helix”? What did they want to hear? Can you talk to us about that meeting?
I then contacted Maped Helix and started a dialogue with them about my re designed protractor. The current protractor which they produce has been around for nearly one hundred years but they were willing to meet and discuss my new idea. During the meeting we discussed all my concerns and the research and feedback that I had received from various schools, maths organisations and exam boards. I presented all this in a power point and in a printed version. Then I showed and demoed the first prototype and the second one responding to the feedback.
I was the third teacher to approach them about my concerns. However I was the only one who had taken it further and developed a prototype and done the research. Helix agreed to take my idea to their NPD (New Product Development) meeting as they felt that my protractor re design would help pupils learning. Maped Helix made a few prototypes and contacted me at every stage throughout the initial moulding and printing process.
8) We hear that you now have got a license of your finished product idea with “Maped Helix” the biggest school stationery department. We also hear that your new protractor will be coming out soon to the market in September this year. Can you talk to us about how many protractors are expected to come out, and about your license?
I have recently signed a licence contract with Maped Helix. The worded version of my protractor will be released in September 2019 and primary schools will be able to purchase it then.
PIXL is also interested and they are getting around 1.200 units in November, and it is available right now on Amazon. It will also be in several Educational Suppliers’ catalogues in 2020. The non-worded version, for secondary schools, will follow to be released by Maped Helix at a later date.