UPC, IED and ESADE students at CERN come up with solutions for sustainable development

The students are using CERN’s most sophisticated technologies to come up with new products and services in collaboration with Ideasquare and the Innovation Department of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). Tracking systems that check the state of foodstuffs before they are sold, Virtual Reality (VR) systems for removing gender inequalities in work settings, and solutions for turning household wastewater into drinking water are just some of the projects presented.

Dec 13, 2018

Six teams of students drawn from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC), the Istituto Europeo di Design (IED) (Barcelona branch) and ESADE Business School took part in the ninth edition of Challenge-based Innovation (CBI). For the fifth year in a row, students from these institutions have collaborated in a project developed by IdeaSquare and the Innovation Department at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) to create solutions that make for a better world in various fields: sex equality; education; mental health; access to drinking water; access to energy; and food safety.

Nine students from the Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering (ETSETB) from the UPC (specifically, those taking a Degree in Engineering Technologies and Telecommunications Services, and the Master in Telecom Engineering); nine Full-Time MBA students from ESADE Business School; and nine students taking Higher Degrees in Design and Design Management at IED (Barcelona) took part in the programme’s latest edition. These three higher education institutions are the only Spanish centres taking part in the CBI — an experimental training programme covering innovation and which is open to universities worldwide. CBI’s purpose is to forge much closer links between society and Science.

Working in multidisciplinary teams, the students experimented with ways of making all three fields of training converge by coming up with innovative solutions that will benefit Mankind. To this end, each group identified which challenge it wished to meet, using the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a guidance framework. This time round, the proposals focused on issues such as: management and the quality of time spent on social network links; sex equality in work settings to ensure men and women enjoy equal opportunities after childbirth; re-cycling household grey water to turn it into drinking water; Nigerian nomads’ access to education; the need to track the quality of foodstuff during their transport and before they are sold.

After months of work in both Barcelona and in Geneva (where they met CERN scientists), the students drew up innovative proposals based on digital tracking, e-printing, Augmented Reality (AR), and satellite connectivity. The result is six projects that highlight our society’s real needs and that come up with solutions that further Mankind’s development.

Six solutions to meet six world challenges
The Schrödinger Team created Totem — a device providing better time management and ‘quality time’ by regulating our use of social networks. Given that algorithms are increasingly shaping our relations and behaviour, this group sought to ensure new technologies are being used properly by coming up with an application that tells one of important tasks and does so by making enticing, useful suggestions. The App tells the user of the events, activities, and duties he/she should attend to and provides information to prepare for them while browsing the virtual world.

The Leaf Project is a blackboard-tablet providing an education system for Nigeria’s nomads. The Tyson Team is the one behind the solution, which caters to children aged from 6 to 12. Nomads’ children cannot attend schools when trekking from one herd grazing area to another. To tackle the problem, the team came up with a solar-powered device that lets children continue their education while on the move. The system features various SD cards containing exercises organised by education levels and covering key subjects such as language and maths. The solution incorporates:  (1) an off-line self-evaluation component so that students can do their exercises off-line; (2) an online satellite-linked component so that students’ results can be sent to the school and taken onboard by the education system.

The Kaya Team’s project provides a solution to improve women’s resumption of work after having a baby. It does so by neutralising the roles that lead to gender inequality. The solution:  (1) boosts user productivity and concentration; (2) allows visualisation of women’s lives, their families, and how they fit into society; (3) educates users’ and improves their quality of life. The approach taken removes gender inequalities in work settings by giving men and women equal opportunities to pursue their careers.

The fourth project, by the Mercalli Team, looked at how household grey water could be turned into drinking water. The result is Water Wall, a home water management system that features three filters: a sand filter, an activated charcoal filter, and — last but not least — a plasma filter. These filters allow one to use 80% of grey water and also to analyse users’ water-consumption patterns. Furthermore, there are plans to turn Water Wall into new water purification systems that could be sold to companies and other households, creating revenue for users.

The OHM Team’s project covers heating systems for everyone. The design is based on the idea that one should warm people, not their dwellings. Many elderly people live alone in cold homes and are poor. They need warmth during the Winter. Bwarm is a device that not only keeps users warm but makes them feel wanted — something that is important for those living far from their loved ones. The energy cost is managed through an App that collects money donated by the user’s friends, thus providing both warmth and solidarity.

FRUIoT is a service that tells users what state foodstuffs are in before they are sold. This is achieved through ‘smart’ labels. Distributors and food chains need to ensure foodstuffs remain fit for human consumption during transport. To solve this problem, the Gell-Man Team came up with a system of electronic labels for the analysis, selection, and picking of products through tracking systems. The smart labels monitor the ambient conditions foodstuffs are subject to make sure that products are in top condition when they reach shops. The system ensures that food distribution and sales chains can rest assured that consumers are supplied with the best produce. The labels also provide information on foodstuffs and let consumers trace product history from point of origin to the meal table.