The Premier Farnell Technology Challenge
Students who take part in the Premier Farnell Technology Challenge will be asked to work in groups of five to design a piece of assistive technology using the Raspberry Pi as a base. Teams will be assigned one of four Fictional Person Profiles, describing a character with a real-world health condition with a specific set of symptoms and needs.
Students will be expected to conduct extensive research and come up with a workable idea in time for a training day at Leeds Beckett University, where they will participate in a series of workshops designed to help them to turn their proposals into a reality. After this, they will receive starter kits and a budget for additional equipment for the creation of their final prototype.
In early November, schools will be visited by a team of external judges, where each team must deliver a short presentation and showcase their prototype. One team will then be selected from each school or college to progress to the Regional Final, a science fair-style event hosted in central Leeds. The winners of the Judge's Choice and People's Choice awards will be announced at this event, which will also host additional workshops and demonstrations.
Scoring Criteria & Prototype Requirements
Students must submit a working prototype incorporating the Raspberry Pi and featuring an element that uses sound, light, display or motion.
Judges will be looking for presentations that meet the following criteria:
- Understanding of the target audience and their needs.
- A final design that demonstrably meets these needs
- Evidence of market research
- Strong team work in the creation of the product
- A final prototype that works
Participants in the Premier Farnell Technology Challenge will be assigned one of four fictional person profiles, each representing a common real-world health condition. Their device must in some way improve the quality of life for people with this condition by helping them to prevent or overcome a common problem, or to meet a specific need.
Profile One: Callum, 45 - Osteoarthritis
Callum suffers from Osteoarthritis, a form of arthritis which presents itself in symptoms such as pain, stiffness, swelling and tenderness of the joints. Callum’s Osteoarthritis started at 42 years old, when it started affecting his hands, causing him to give up piano, which he’d enjoyed playing all his life. Callum’s Osteoarthritis also affects his ankles. The pain and stiffness in Callum’s hands and ankles is continuous.
Repetitive tasks and chores can be a daunting prospect for Callum, especially where there is a lot of finger movement, continuous grip or strength required. From using his laptop, to picking up the phone or using the television remote, anything that can help to minimise the impact from completing these tasks would be incredibly useful for Callum and other sufferers of Osteoarthritis. Callum loves the idea of home automation and wonders where this could be implemented at home.
Callum’s mother, Jeanette, also suffers from Osteoarthritis. They used to enjoy playing tennis together on weekends, but some of the repetitive movements involved in this sport have led to pain that’s too difficult to manage. Because both now suffer from this condition, Callum and Jeanette don’t see each other as often as they used to. However, they both understand the importance of exercise with their conditions, and being competitive, would like to know if there’s a way they can continuously share information about the amount and different types of exercise they’ve undertaken.
Callum’s GP is keen to see too, how much time in the day Callum is sedentary vs. exercising, his levels of pain/discomfort with potential triggers, and levels of medication. He wants to know this so he can monitor the rate of deterioration of his condition and the effectiveness of his medication. Given that Callum’s pain occurs mostly in his hands, the GP understands that writing a diary isn’t very practical for him so another approach would be necessary to achieve this.
- Stiffness in hands, wrists and ankles
- Continuous pain in hands, wrists and ankles
Profile Two: Arjun, 68 - Dementia
Arjun is 68. He was diagnosed with the early signs of dementia 2 years ago. Arjun is informed about his symptoms, being mainly to do with memory and judgment, and works hard to manage them with assistance from his wife Shanta. Arjun’s doctor has told him to keep up his hobbies – which include gardening and cooking – as much as possible, and to adopt memory aids and other assistive tools where needed to maintain his regular routine.
Arjun is a keen gardener and likes to grow fruits and vegetables in his garden. However, he is beginning to find it difficult to remember when and how often to water his plants. He does have ‘good’ and ‘bad’ memory days so this isn’t always a problem, but would like a bit of help at times when he’s struggling, as he’d hate for the hard work in his garden to go to waste.
On those ‘good’ days, Arjun often likes to cook unaided. His symptoms however do mean that sometimes he can forget what certain ingredients look like, where they might be kept or what certain instructions might mean, such as ‘thicken the sauce’. He already has recipe books and a cookery website that he uses but something that can help him whenever he gets stuck would be useful and help him avoid feeling frustrated.
Arjun’s difficulty with judgement and decision-making impacts on all areas of his life. Another example is that he has difficulty choosing clothing that is appropriate for the weather. Sometimes if it rains, he chooses flimsy coats that don’t have a hood, forgetting to bring an umbrella. During the summer, he will sometimes wear too many layers, without realising this will make him uncomfortable in the heat. His wife is usually around to assist him in making such decisions, but Shanta worries about Arjun’s ability to do these things when she is out of the house. She hopes they can discover tools that will help to help maintain Arjun’s independence for as long as possible.
- Memory loss and forgetfulness - sometimes remembering to do simple tasks at the correct time
- Struggling with tasks that require planning or organisation
- Impaired judgement and decision making - difficulty making choices or knowing the order in which tasks need to be completed.
Profile Three: Effie, 29 - Glaucoma
Effie suffers from Glaucoma. This affects her vision and is caused by a build-up of pressure in her eye.
When her diagnosis came, Effie’s main worry was that it would interfere with her active lifestyle. Effie has always enjoyed netball and plays Goal Attack for a local team. Glaucoma has affected her periphery vision, particularly on her left side, and this can impact on her ability to keep track of where her team mates are on the court.
For her condition, Effie takes eye drops and occasionally pain and anti-nausea medication. However, Effie needs to ensure she takes eye drops on a regular basis and due to the potential long-term effects of taking her medication, is keen to monitor how regularly she is taking these.
Due to Effie’s passion for fitness, she was once given a fitness tracker, which she really liked the idea of, but found it hard to use due to her sight. She’d be keen to know if there is another piece of kit which might be more accessible to her and others who are partially sighted, perhaps through different methods of communicating data/information. Effie would love to be able to actively monitor her heartrate when playing sports, keep track of and receive updates throughout the day of how many steps she’s taken, as well as keeping track of time during a match or on one of her long hikes.
Effie recently adopted a kitten called Sammy. Sammy will soon be old enough to go outside and roam about the house on his own. She is concerned about her cat creeping into dangerous areas of the house without her noticing, and she also worries about having difficulty spotting the cat if it gets lost. Effie would really like to keep tabs on that tabby.
- Reduced vision in both eyes
- Poor periphery vision
- Eye pain
- Occasional headaches
Profile Four: Vine - Complex Needs
Vine is an education course for young adults aged 19-25 years of age with a range of complex disabilities. Most learners attending are non-verbal and rely on simple signing, photos or symbols to support communication. Some learners use wheelchairs: manual or powered. They are dependent on others for all aspects of their care and support in normal daily tasks. This can range from physical support to offering verbal prompts.
The aim of the programme is to support learners to be as independent as they can be. We want the learner to be able to do as much for themselves with as little support as possible. Sometimes learners make huge leaps in progress that for others may be minute steps.
The Vine curriculum is based around developing four key areas:
- Life skills (cooking basic snacks, lunch, accessing community safely, learning to use public transport)
- Sensory (stimulation through touch, visuals, sound and taste)
- Communication (Different learners will have different levels of ability. Some may be non-verbal - unable to use words)
- Physical (Maintaining or improving physical health through exercise, physiotherapy, diet)
Some learners struggle with emotions and can present behaviour which can be challenging. The cause is often difficult to establish as the person cannot tell us. As such the situation can sometimes escalate, most likely due to the frustration of not being understood. Technology that can help learners to communicate some of their more basic needs would help them to feel more in control.
Other learners have complex health needs and are fed using a tube direct into the stomach. They may also take some foods and liquids orally. It is important to know how much of each food and liquid the person is getting to maintain and control weight. This avoids other health issues and complications. Other learners might need support to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and may require prompts or intervention from others to achieve this.
The literacy and numeracy ability of these learners is often very basic or low. Many of the resources used for sessions involve written text such as recipes or recording sheets, and it can be difficult for the learners to use these. This can contribute to them feeling disempowered as they rely on others for support. Technology that can support learners to read, understand or use written sources of information would benefit them, especially where these might be combined with visual prompts.