Apple invited a bunch of UK schoolchildren to meet its engineers – and so confirmed that it does have a UK-based team working on the chips that power our iPhones.
The chips inside almost all smartphones have a British heritage of course – most are based around architecture designs from ARM (which in itself originated as part of 1980s UK educational computer-maker Acorn) based in Cambridge.
The UK team is probably focused on graphics for iOS devices. It seems the chip design team is based in St. Albans, Herts. not far from Imagination Technologies in Kings Langley. Apple bought PowerVR graphics chips from Imagination for its iOS devices until it decided to make its own graphics for the iPhone 8 (built into the A11 Bionic platform) and beyond to better optimise performance.
John Metcalfe, who now is a senior director at Apple, was previously chief operating officer at Imagination and others also appear to have made the jump to Apple’s team.
The idea behind introducing schoolchildren aged 7-16 to Apple’s engineering teams is to hopefully inspire the next generation of engineers – as well as increase diversity. 91 percent of the engineering industry is male while 94 percent is white.
2018 is a UK Government-designated Year of Engineering, designed to tackle the engineering skills gap and widen the pool of young people who join the profession.
As part of this, Apple has introduced a programme of activities for primary and secondary school pupils, including AI robot coding workshops in 38 Apple stores across the UK. Apple’s Swift Playgrounds app for iPad enables kids to master the basics of Apple’s Swift programming language including programming robots and drones including the excellent Lego Mindstorms EV3 and Sphero SPRK+.
More than 1,300 partners are supporting the Year of Engineering campaign, including Siemens, Dyson, the BBC, Ford and Usborne.
The UK Space Agency is also supporting the campaign by funding a series of education projects designed to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“This unique chance to go behind the scenes with Apple engineers is a real golden ticket for a generation of young people who have grown up at the cutting edge of new technology,” says minister for the Year of Engineering Nusrat Ghani. “We hope it will inspire the next generation of engineers to play their part in the innovations of the future.”
Apple's growing app coding curriculum
Back in January Apple announced over 70 colleges and universities in Europe were adopting Apple's App Development with Swift curriculum. It's part of Apple's Everyone Can Code initiative, designed to help everyone learn to build mobile apps.
15 establishments in the UK are rolling out the curriculum now and over the coming months: Harlow College in Essex, Essa Academy in Manchester, Highgate School in London, Plymouth University, Aberystwyth University, University of Liverpool, UTC Watford, Caterham School, ACS International School Egham, St Andrews Secondary School in Glasgow, Larbert High School, Churchill Community College in Newcastle, Bedford Girls School, Birkbeck University of London and the University of Northampton.
Interestingly, Apple reckons there are 255,000 UK jobs attributable to the iOS and App Store ecosystem.
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