Tom Stembridge, Sponge

by Tom Stembridge

My Tech Story started during secondary school. Every week on Wednesday, IT Club would be run during lunch time, giving first come first serve computer and web access to thirty lucky pupils for one hour. One in, one out. This was where I first heard the sound of a 56k modem dial up to the World Wide Web, all the while content slowly but surely loading in front of me, scanning further and further down the screen.

Very soon my friends and I were creating our own web pages using Yahoo’s GeoCities web hosting service, sharing our thoughts and interests with the world, or at least each other. But the idea that the content that we were publishing could be accessed by anyone with a computer connected to the web; anywhere in the world – this was what hooked me.

Having taken a particular interest in digital media, I completed a GCSE in Media Studies where I had my earliest experiences in using creative software such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver. Learning the fundamentals of programming in html and pairing this with growing passion for digital art led me to continue studying media through my A-levels and, eventually University.

I ended up studied Digital Art and Technology; a hybrid computer science and digital art degree. The course allowed me to learn the fundamentals of a range of software packages, including Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. We were also taught how to code in html, css and ActionScript along with Java so that we were able to couple our development and design based skills to create all sorts of interactive online projects. It also allowed me to get hands on with physical tech with my final year project built using an Arduino board and a range of environmental sensors to create a plant monitoring system that sent temperature and ambient light data straight to a web page.

Unfortunately, when I started my degree I had no idea that I would be going into the work place in a recession that had taken its toll on the country. Determined to put the skills I gained at university to use, I set about applying for anything I could. I was keen to take advantage of any opportunities that came my way, working a number of short-term Front End Web Dev roles before eventually becoming an Elearning Technologist at the University of St. Mark and St. John.

I very quickly discovered that conceptualising and building tech-based solutions that helped others learn was challenging, rewarding and exactly what I wanted to be doing. A year later I joined Sponge UK, an Elearning company based in Plymouth, Devon that specialise in creating absorbing learning experiences. I now spend my days building beautiful and engaging learning courses using Articulate Storyline and Adobe Flash, and preparing a range of audio/visual media using the Adobe Creative suite.

Who thought that work could be this fun when they are a kid? I hope that I’m able to build exciting and innovative tech-based learning solutions for a long time to come and be part of an elearning industry that continues to grow and flourish. At Sponge, we want to continue championing mobile elearning that is available on tablets and phones. I would also love to see elearning move further into the realm of virtual and augmented reality. The only restriction with technology is your imagination, so if you have a passion for technology then pursue it! You won’t regret it.

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