Stanford bound Trinity engineers are Ireland’s innovators of tomorrow
02 June 2015
Student engineers from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) will be in Stanford University next week as Ireland’s only representatives at a global design innovation network showcase. The engineers will present high-quality and fully functional prototypes they have created to help solve societal problems at an event that brings together teams from 16 world-leading universities spanning five continents.
The engineers participating in the showcase completed the Innovation in Product Development course at TCD that seeks to provide them with invaluable international collaborative experience at the interface of design, engineering and business. It is hoped that such skills will help create Ireland’s innovators of tomorrow.
Each year, TCD’s teams work on a diverse portfolio of projects with international partners that provide innovative solutions to the needs of different industries, across both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. This year’s sponsors included a large multinational software company, an Irish SME that makes agricultural machinery and not-for-profit charities in the healthcare sector.
“Innovation is not alchemy – there are tools and techniques out there that are proven. When you want to be the best, you look to the best, and in innovation that is Silicon Valley,” said assistant professor in mechanical and manufacturing engineering at TCD, Kevin Kelly.
“As Ireland’s leading university, we should be setting our goals high, and that is what we’re doing by collaborating with Stanford University,” he said. “International collaboration is a key feature of modern industry, and indeed academia, and we see the benefits of that kind of collaboration garnered by our students and delivered in the innovative output in their projects. It is hard work for the students, but ultimately very rewarding to respond to real user needs by designing and creating real functional products.”
One of this year’s teams partnered with the Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne, Australia) on a project sponsored by a Japanese company called BeatRobo that challenged the team to imagine the future of personal identification and security.
Another of the teamsaddressed the challenge of helping people with intellectual disability better integrate into society. Working with their end users, the team discovered that navigation and way-finding present significant challenges for people with intellectual disability, and for their carers. Their solution comprised a smartphone app connected to a smart-watch, which gave simple, easy-to-follow directions through the device and, optionally, through earphones to the user. The carers’ app, meanwhile, receives live updates on the position of the user and their destination, and also monitors their heartrate (important in detecting anxiety).
Auveen Bell, co-founder of children’s charity BlossomIreland, heard about the Wayfinder app and identified the potential benefit immediately. “In BlossomIreland, we provide camps and after-school activities for children with intellectual disability (ID), and as the mother of a child with ID I could visualise straight away the difference it could make to the independence of these young people while giving their parents and carers some peace of mind,” she said.
“As an engineer myself I was always aware of the general potential to create products that make a difference, but to see this kind of innovation being developed by a team of students during their studies was very impressive.
“They’ve really understood the needs of people with ID and then taken their idea all the way to a functioning product. We certainly didn’t do that sort of thing when Kevin and I were in university! We’re looking forward to trying out the product during the summer.”
Dr Burton Lee, a member of the government’s Innovation Taskforce, and professor at Stanford, believes the need to teach innovation skills to engineers is an important element of ensuring Ireland remains competitive in the global marketplace.
“Engineering-informed product design requires technical, entrepreneurship and innovation skills, which must be built upon academically rigorous foundations at leading higher education institutions in Silicon Valley, Germany, the UK, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, USA, Japan and Korea.
“Product design education based in engineering schools is pioneering new models of innovation, industry engagement and industry-driven research, and has demonstrated the ability to produce successful university spin-outs from student team projects on a sustained basis. This strengthens innovation capacity in industry and universities at a national level, and can be expected to significantly boost Ireland’s global competitive position in world-class disruptive innovation in the ICT, medical devices, pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors,” he concluded.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2015/06/02/stanford-bound-engineers-irelands-innovators-of-tomorrow/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/TCD-Innovators-of-Tomorrow1.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/TCD-Innovators-of-Tomorrow1-300x300.jpgNewsICT,innovation,medical devices,pharma,Trinity College Dublin