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ESADE, IED and UPC students once again team up with CERN to find solutions to societal challenges

A group of 30 students from ESADE, the IED and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya’s Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering (ETSETB) and Barcelona School of Informatics (FIB) were chosen for the third consecutive year to participate in Challenge Based Innovation (CBI Mediterranean). This experimental innovation training programme, which is open to universities worldwide, aims to bridge the gap between science and society by promoting novel solutions for the future of humankind in collaboration with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), a pioneering particle physics centre.

ESADE, the IED and the UPC are the only three Spanish higher education institutions to participate in Challenge Based Innovation.

After several weeks spent learning alongside scientists at the CERN facility in Geneva (Switzerland) and a few more weeks of group work in Barcelona, the students – organised in multidisciplinary teams of students from all three universities – turned their attention to five challenges. The students’ mission was to create new products and services that solve some of the problems currently facing society in three areas: engineering (providing technological solutions), management (overseeing and ensuring the feasibility of the project), and design (facilitating the usability and experience of the product or service).

Solutions to five societal challenges
In this edition of CBI Mediterranean, the students worked to find solutions to five societal challenges. The resulting projects could lead to new business initiatives, as was the case in the past two editions of the programme. Specifically, the students were asked to develop solutions to the following challenges: helping people go back to work after a traffic accident, integrating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into society, using technology to improve living conditions for refugees, improving learning experiences through interaction in physical and digital spaces, and applying technology to smart manufacturing (industry 4.0) and industrial maintenance.

Resulting projects
  • Proton, a tool that motivates survivors of traffic accidents. How can technology help people injured in traffic accidents with the psychological rehabilitation process so that they can resume their professional lives? Proton is a virtual tool that motivates accident victims to create a community that lasts beyond the rehabilitation period and helps forge a new mindset through collaborative immersive games based on virtual reality. This tool not only reduces the length of hospital stays but also fosters interaction among the people involved in the process.
  • Lasi, a device to improve communication for people with intellectual disabilities. Speech therapy is an efficient way to improve communication skills and quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities. With constant practice and proper monitoring, speech therapy can yield astonishing results, but it requires one-on-one sessions with a therapist, who may offer only limited access. Lasi is a customisable device that is tailor-made for people with intellectual disabilities. The device allows the user to practise personalised exercises created by his or her therapist. Through speech recognition, Lasi analyses whether the user has performed an exercise correctly and provides feedback in the form of lights, vibrations, images or surface changes, depending on which stimulus is most appropriate for each patient. If the exercise has not been performed correctly, a facial reconstruction shows the correct movement in order to guide the user. The device uses gamification and physical interaction to keep users motivated and to try to achieve faster and more effective improvement.
  • Modular Smart Grid, microgrids for better energy management in refugee camps. Energy is especially scarce in refugee camps. According to the United Nations, only 10% of refugees worldwide have reliable access to electricity. This poses problems for food processing, health, communication, productivity and safety. Fires often occur in refugee camps because residents use wood fires to cook and to protect themselves when it is dark, which is when violent acts are most likely. In order to solve this problem, students developed the Modular Smart Grid. This solution allows better energy management by creating microgrids from which electricity can be requested according to specific needs. Basic needs such as hospitals and schools are prioritised, and refugees’ individual needs are addressed on an area-by-area basis. The Modular Smart Grid is a flexible, affordable, safe system that allows multiple access points and energy sources to be added gradually, and it’s as easy to use as plugging in an extension cord in a normal building.
  • DALI, a new educational environment that reconfigures and improves the way children learn. How can people’s learning experience be improved through the interaction of physical and digital spaces? By encouraging autonomy, skills and goals, DALI – a platform that integrates educational resources from various sources – fosters an educational commitment in children and also provides accurate information that can help the education system’s various stakeholders make decisions. DALI is accompanied by Jamie, a personal artificial-intelligence tutor who is available 24 hours a day to help students learn and solve their educational concerns. Jamie learns how each user progresses and provides customised answers. This tool makes it possible to channel the entire educational process. Each user has his or her own profile, and students are encouraged to interact with one another (peer education). The tool also allows students to contact their teachers and mentors, creating a new collaborative educational ecosystem.
  • Symetra, a comprehensive maintenance solution for manufacturers and users of machines. Symetra is an innovative solution that allows the various agents involved in the maintenance ecosystem (machinery manufacturers, maintenance companies and equipment users) to benefit from cost-effective, contextualised, anticipatory maintenance. Thanks to data obtained through sensors, digitised manuals, 3D models of machines, and maintenance professionals’ experience, manufacturers and users are able to optimise their maintenance activities using augmented reality tools. Symetra also makes it possible to take real-time readings of the machines’ operating parameters, thereby minimising the costs of training maintenance professionals. Finally, for troubleshooting purposes, the tool also facilitates remote and virtual assistance.

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In collaboration with:
Fundación Española para la Ciencia y la Tecnología Science Year 2007 Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación
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