IT HOTHOUSE | Where Does it Fit?

IT HOTHOUSE - ICT in Education

UPT Digital | The IT HOTHOUSE Flagship Pod


“The UPT Digital team is breaking all the rules – and guess what? It works!” ~ Scott Wylie, Director of Developer Platforms, Microsoft NZ.

"I think it's amazing and could be developed as a generic format for all learning!" ~ Richard Gerver, Education Consultant and Author (UK) on UPT Digital.

"Renea is the driving force behind UPT Digital which I think is one of the most amazing 'getting kids involved in tech' initiatives on the planet." ~ Brett Roberts, CEO of Cucumber.


UPT Digital is the IT HOTHOUSE flagship pod created in response to student demand for this type of learning to be supported in schools. It is also our solution to preparing students for careers in IT as we believe IT should be New Zealand's biggest export industry.

Our focus is on game, application and web development for multiple platforms because of the multi-disciplinary nature of these projects and the emphasis on teamwork.

Another goal is to change the perception of IT to attract a more diverse pool of people. From our limited experience, we've seen first hand that having a variety of people working together in a team has far better outcomes. Environment is also key. IT is exciting, interesting, and the best industry to be in!

The UPT Digital POD is designed to "spawn" self-managing PODS in other schools, to create a united games and software development community, and to carve out clear tertiary and/or career pathways for students to follow.

| How Do They Work?

Our Learning Model


IT HOTHOUSE is a consultancy built from the ground up and the consultants are mostly students.  We facilitate workshops to teach people how to create exciting learning environments and build global professional networks.

An IT HOTHOUSE POD, or class, such as UPT Digital, is guided by a Project Facilitator/Learning Advisor/Teacher. The Project Facilitator identifies the needs of individuals or groups of students within the Pod and finds mentors (and resources) to support the learning. This support can be through ongoing visits, one off visits by a number of people in a given field, and/or external visits. A lot of our mentoring is done through industry mentor to student emails.

Students have three choices:

1. Development Teams, typically consisting of 5 - 9 members.

Development teams are usually made up of students with varying interests such as a programmer, a level designer, a modeler, a texture artist, a concept artist, and a writer. Each team has a Project Manager.

2. Individual Projects.

For students wanting to work on their own projects and engage freelancers to help create assets, etc.

3. Freelancers.

Freelancers can be part of the immediate Pod, other students at the school, or other students in PODs at other schools. Or, anyone from industry/community.

This is a particularly good choice for those wanting to focus on definite pathways, such as a programmer or a modeler.

Members of the Development Teams meet with members of the Freelancers Circle to discuss ideas and offer a brief. Freelancers then decide which contracts (currently verbal) they will work on.

The Mentors Circle encompasses the POD. This is a support network of industry, tertiary, and peer mentors. Mentors can be local, national, or international, whatever works best. UPT Digital at Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti has local mentors coming in every week, also national and international mentors that visit less regularly but keep in touch electronically.




Development Teams are formed by students willing to take on specific roles within the group, or to experience difference roles. Each team decides upon a Team Project Manager. Depending on the skill levels of participants, teams are then given a particular game, web project, or application concept to work with, or they come up with their own and pitch it to our mentors for collaborative development of the idea. Once an idea is decided upon, the teams set to work to create their projects.

Project Management

Teams have their own space on a whiteboard, on an A3 Project Page or in a Scrapbook based on the Agile system. Members must create a row for a "story", for example, "Start Menu". Each row has three columns: To Do, Doing, and Done.

For each Story, students write up a list of tasks on sticky notes, such as "Create Button Images", "Design Background", then team members choose which tasks they're going to work on and move the sticky notes accordingly. This system allows students to visibly see where the team is at, at any given moment. Project designs and ideas are posted on paper sheets underneath.

Every second week, it's "Demo Day". Development Teams must pull their projects together to Demo to mentors, sometimes visitors, and also the other Development Teams. This is done in the form of a presentation. Each team member gets to show off their work. After the Demo's, Teams run Retrospective sessions. This is an opportunity for Teams to reflect on the past two weeks, the positives, the challenges, and a list of possible solutions/next steps to work on.


Creating A Self-Sustainable Model

UPT Digital Peer-to-Peer Mentoring
Pictured Above: A small sample of how our Mentoring Systems work. These boards are usually quite long with a lot of different disciplines displayed.

UPT Digital students are aged between 12 - 18 years of age, therefore peer-to-peer mentoring is a class requirement and plays a significant role in the group's ability to up skill and move forward. This mentoring system also works well with younger students aged between 7 - 12 years.

Each student ranks him or herself according to skill level. 1 is Most Experienced and 3 is Beginner. At a glance, students can see who they need to go to for help or who they need to help. Industry mentors in each discipline posted at the bottom.

Enterprise, Entrepreneurship and Etiquette

IT HOTHOUSE Pods aren't just about games, app and web development. They're also about enterprise, entrepreneurship and etiquette. Learning the skills to create products is one thing but knowing how to talk about them and make your mark on the world is another.

Entrepreneurial culture is a big part of IT HOTHOUSE. For example, when UPT Digital needed funds to get the class to Wellington for Tech Hui, they didn't think raffles and bake sales. The students had to think about their value proposition and come up with a worthwhile sponsorship strategy to raise the money. So far, this has been very successful! We also encourage students to interact with real clients for their projects.

We regularly eat out together and attend as many industry/tertiary functions as possible. Networking with industry is a huge part of our model. Personal grooming and hygiene are also extremely important factors of IT HOTHOUSE.

GLOBAL PODS | How They Support Each Other

With IT HOTHOUSE acting as a central point, Pod Project Facilitators from around the world can communicate and support each other. Students can mentor each other, pods can share industry mentors and even create development teams with students in different countries. All students can contribute assets to the IT HOTHOUSE Asset Libraries and act as mentors for all the pods.

Each pod is unique. It's up to the students to decide what they would like to focus on, whether it's robotics, games, apps, web design or a little bit of everything, the IT HOTHOUSE network will help students to learn at their own pace, dream big, and connect with a wider community.

Primary Learning Objectives

  • Team work
  • Design Thinking
  • Project Management
  • Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Problem solving
  • Networking/Relationship building
  • Technical skills such as programming and modeling
  • Business skills
  • Visual skills
  • Personal skills


Some Interesting Examples of Cross Curricular Learning in the UPT Digital Pod:

English/ICT > Maia is working on an animation to tell the story of the life of Oscar Wilde. We are constantly presenting at both school and industry events.

Philosophy/ICT > Jay, Alex and Connor are working on a Philosophy Game.

Physics/ICT > With the help of Florian, our Physics Learning Advisor, Jay created an XNA project using all the knowledge he would need know of the Physics external exam.

Business/ICT > Mitchell has released his FSX app into the Marketplace and is integrating Business Assessments thanks to George, our Entrepreneurship Learning Advisor.

Math/ICT > We are developing a trading simulation environment so students can test their own data analysis models.

The students input on everything from PR strategies to design concepts. We have our own Fitness Program and focus on personal hygiene and etiquette. For us, IT is a lifestyle choice.

UPT Digital Structure and Team Structure © IT HOTHOUSE 2012. All Rights Reserved.
Last modified: Monday, 19 May 2014, 03:09 AM