Imagine a show bursting with clever inventions, hands-on workshops and innovative ideas to give thousands of young people a glimpse of the exciting and rewarding opportunities to be found in the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Well, that’s precisely what you’ll find at The Big Bang Science & Engineering Fair – one of the largest events to celebrate STEM for young people. Exhibitors at the fair include some of the UK’s most influential design and engineering companies such as Rolls Royce, Airbus Group, and Atkins, as well as hands-on workshops by Space agencies and the NHS.
Amongst exhibitors at the Big Bang Fair 2016 was the comparatively low-tech ‘Project Wallk’ workshop. Project Wallk is a social venture fuelled by the seemingly humble vision that “The chance to walk should be offered to all.” But for many children with walking impairments who live in developing regions of the world there is often no access to healthcare and as a result getting hold of a much needed walking aid is not easy. A walking aid can enable a child to attend school, integrate in the community and escape the disability-poverty cycle, so the mission of Project Wallk is to offer a long-term and affordable solution for mobility rehabilitation across developing regions of the world.
The majority of designers and engineers in the UK tend to focus on developing products/services for consumers with disposable income (the top 10% of people in the world). Facilitators at the Project Wallk workshop were focused on teaching young visitors about designing appropriately for ‘the other 90%’ (the billions of people who don’t even have their basic food and water, shelter, sanitation, education, and healthcare needs met). The main hands-on activity being run at the workshop was a product assembly challenge, to put together various walking aids from the innovative Evolvable Walking Aid Kit. The kit consists of a set of locally manufacturable parts made from half a wooden pallet and up to 24 cable ties, which can be assembled to form a walking frame, crutches or a walking stick. The whole kit can be locally produced in a sustainable manner using simple hand tools and it will adapt to correctly support a child throughout their mobility rehabilitation process…for just 68 pence!
Throughout the Big Bang Fair, feedback was collected about the Evolvable Walking Aid Kit’s visual assembly instructions, to ensure it will be as intuitive as possible to assemble. The fair proved to be a great platform for Project Wallk to simultaneously collect design feedback and share their passion with such a large young audience, whilst inspiring the next generation of innovators to focus on solving humanity’s biggest design challenges.
You can follow the progress of Project Wallk at www.facebook.com/Meru.llama
After a month of user research and design refinements we’re gearing up to make test prototypes for our walking aid kit pilot tests. This includes making some important decisions about the manufacture and sustainability of the product so we needed to hunt down some professionals in the field to expand our knowledge and help us make the right choices. When it comes to the manufacture and distribution of walking aids [or in fact anything that makes daily life easier for the elderly or people with disabilities] there is one place to go; Rehacare.
With more than 750 exhibitors from 37 countries, the annual Rehacare trade fair provides a comprehensive overview of the most up-to-date organisations in this sector, and it just so happens to take place in Düsseldorf! We spent an intense few days at the show collecting information, talking to manufacturers, assessing the market place, networking with distributors and generally learning as much as possible. We also did a fair bit of people-watching and pretzel eating…
Last night we returned from Düsseldorf with a wealth of new information, a list of useful contacts, and an overall better understanding of our next steps in the design process. I’d call that a success.
The Institute of Engineering Designers recently celebrated its 70th anniversary at St James’ Palace. To mark the occasion a chartership for Product Design was introduced to recognise the achievements of those working in the sector. I was lucky enough to be invited along to represent the young members of the institute, and even more lucky to get to talk with Prince Philip about my work. Design history was made that evening as the first five charterships in product design ever to be awarded were presented during a speech by Prince Philip himself; I really hope my sense of humour is as sharp as his when I’m that age!
Images: Prince Philip and Cara O’Sullivan at St Jame’s Palace, London
A learning experience is one of those things that say, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”
I’m learning to make decisions at the moment.
This next year will be used as a learning exercise and I’ll be committing time and effort in exchange for knowledge and experience. I’m trying to avoid being influenced by money for as long as physically possible. This is the point where we all laugh at my naivety, pretend we’re joking and take a 9-5 job like most sane people would, right?
Two weeks later…
I just set up a company! The whole process took around 10 minutes on the ‘Companies House’ website, which surprised me; I’d always imagined it would be a long, complex process but the hardest part was deciding on a name. Well, ‘Cara Design’ isn’t the most imaginative of names but it’ll do until I get a feel for things. Most importantly, I’ve now secured a workspace at the Central Research Laboratory for my company, after giving a Dragons Den type pitch, and I’ve also secured funding for one of my prospective design projects through a competition. Its good to make the most of the word ‘secured’ since very little of this plan seems that way right now…
Two weeks before graduating I find myself here in the London School of Economics for the finals of the Inclusive Technology Prize finals – I’ve somehow got into the top 10 from over 200 designs. The prize seeks innovation in products, technologies and systems that enable disabled people, their families, friends and carers equal access to life’s opportunities.
So far today I have had the chance to discuss my design with Justin Tomlinson MP, Minister for Disabled People. I also had the honour of talking with David Constantine, founder of Motivation charity, whose journey I have admired since embarking on my project to design a walking aid kit for developing regions of the world.
We’ve had a busy day so far, but it doesn’t stop here. For the next eight months I’ll be prototyping and user testing my design as well as creating a business plan and presentation in preparation for the final judging panel in February 2016.
After a 3 hours of being wedged in a car full of folders and piles of paper, the research team (7 Occupational therapists and myself) arrived in Donnington – this year’s venue for the Mobility Roadshow.
Our aim was to conduct design Research at the Mobility roadshow to discover the unmet needs of people who require mobility assistance. After interviewing people about their mobility requirements and future mobility desires, we took the opportunity to learn about some of the latest equipment to help with mobility needs and try out some of the latest assistive gadgets, including some awesome electric wheelchairs which were unbelievably easy to manoeuvre!
The BPMA Design Awards is an annual competition which seeks innovation for the promotional products industry. The brief outlines the need for commercial viability and brandability of the design and the main requirement is that it is suitable for low-cost manufacture.
The nine competition finalists met at the 3M innovation centre to discuss their concepts and take a look at some of 3M’s most successful designs. The designer’s concepts were exhibited at the 2013 Trade Only National Show which was the perfect opportunity for networking with manufacturers and seeking potential sponsorship and clients.
The competition then took the final designs to Marketing Week Live 2014, which was another valuable opportunity for the designers to share their concepts and prototypes with the public and engage with businesses who would potentially market their products. The competition as a whole is a brilliant way to learn first hand about the steps involved with taking a product to market and it provides the finalists with some great networking opportunities.
MEX is a two day conference which brings together the brightest minds in mobile, media and design to share knowledge and create a collective response to the MEX Pathways. Creative workshops take place throughout the event to explore ‘user modes’ and create relating design principles. By identifying common ways people engage with digital products, we can move beyond design governed by specific technologies or device types and instead use these ‘user modes’ to build experiences better suited to user needs.