IED Barcelona students collaborate with CERN
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IED Barcelona students collaborate with CERN

Nineteen students from ESADE, the IED Barcelona Design School, and the Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering (ETSETB) of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) were recently challenged to participate in the Mediterranean edition of Challenge-Based Innovation (CBI). This initiative was organised by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), a pioneering particle-physics centre at the forefront of the search for novel solutions for the future of humankind. For the second year in a row, ESADE, IED Barcelona and ETSETB were the only Spanish higher education institutions to offer students the chance to participate in CBI, an experimental innovation training programme open to universities worldwide that aims to bridge the gap between science and society.

After four months working at the “Emprèn” space on the UPC’s North Campus in Barcelona, the students spent several weeks learning alongside scientists at the CERN facility in Geneva (Switzerland) before turning their attention to the four CBI challenges. They worked as a multidisciplinary team, with each student contributing knowledge from his or her field of study. Their 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 societal challenges

In this edition of CBI Mediterranean, the students worked to find solutions to four societal challenges. The resulting projects – a technological solution to reduce illiteracy in children and young people in developing countries; a system for providing access to clean, potable water (to prevent disease and deaths related to hygiene problems); a system for improving food distribution (keeping products fresh and ensuring food safety); and a tool for facilitating employment mobility among European Union countries – may give rise to new business initiatives.

The UPC team – coordinated by ETSETB Prof. Ramón Bragós – consisted of students in the Bachelor’s Degree in Telecommunications Technologies and Services Engineering, the Master’s Degree in Electronic Engineering, and the Master’s Degree in Telecommunications Engineering.

The ESADE team – coordinated by Lecturer Lotta Hassi of the Department of Operations, Innovation and Data Sciences – consisted of students in the Full-Time MBA.

The IED Barcelona team – coordinated by Prof. Luciana Leveratto and Prof. Guido Charosky – consisted of students in the Advanced Degree in Product and Transport Design and the IED Diploma In Creative Advertising and Branding.

In addition, eight students from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy) participated remotely in two of the four challenges.

The projects:

Bam-boo: a wise tree with screens. How can we use technology to significantly reduce illiteracy in children and young people in developing countries? The proposed solution is Bam-boo, a tree-shaped knowledge kiosk featuring screens that allow community members to interact with stored information and get users involved in the experience of learning and creating knowledge. The kiosk offers games and challenges designed to improve the community as well as the individual learning process.

Kelvin Food for U: food packaged at the ideal temperature. How can fresh food be home-delivered safely and at the right temperature? Kelvin Food for U is a box of air made from a material developed at CERN (and previously used by NASA) that keeps food sealed and chilled. The system, developed in collaboration with Carrefour and Reimagine Food, ensures food safety by using sensors to monitor the temperature of the packaged items in real time. The system can be used for home delivery or at pick-up points. The project could make it possible to guarantee optimal food conditions for under-resourced groups, thereby contributing to the struggle against global hunger.

Water Safety: sensors for detecting potable water. How can we improve public health by guaranteeing safe access to water? The proposed solution to this challenge – one of the world’s most pressing problems – is to install a network of sensors at water sources (dams and wells) that collect data on the amount of water and detect any health-related problems that may arise. This information is displayed on a map indicating the status of the water sources and can also be sent by text message, if necessary.

The system transfers the information to a web-based environment (which can also be accessed via mobile devices) so that it can be reviewed by a network of technicians and NGOs that work in communities with no running water. This information is extremely useful for conducting maintenance work or carrying out projects in remote areas where it is important to locate nearby sources of quality water. The technology used includes databases, wireless sensors, programming solutions for mobile applications, and LED displays for showing the results.

Talent Hub: a digital platform for choosing an employment destination in Europe. How can big-data tools be used to increase the employment mobility of workers in the European Union? Talent Hub is a web-based environment designed for in-house HR services and qualified candidates who are already registered on social networks or job-search websites such as LinkedIn, Infoempleo and Trovolavoro. Selected candidates can use the platform to learn about the living conditions – housing, social and labour rights, healthcare, schools, transport, etc. – at various possible employment destinations.

The platform integrates data such as MySQL, Amazon Web Services (AWS), machine-learning tools and other instruments related to big-data processing, including some developed at CERN. The tool allows users to scout for talent and helps them make a decision in favour of a particular destination. The project is supported by Iconsulting, the Italian Ministry of Employment, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme.

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