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Comillas students to compete in the Social Tech Challenge

UNIJES universities launch a challenge that unites engineering and technology to impact society

wheelchair museum 3.jpeg

The challenge of the UNIJES universities is to design and manufacture an autonomous wheelchair for people with reduced mobility to enjoy a visit to a museum (Image generated with AI).

4 October 2023

Comillas Pontifical University, in collaboration with other Jesuit universities - Deusto, Ramón Llull and Loyola Andalucía - has launched the first edition of the UNIJES Social Tech Challenge, a competition for engineering students whose challenge is to design and manufacture an autonomous wheelchair for people with reduced mobility to enjoy a visit to a museum.

The main objective of this unique challenge is to unite engineering and technology to create a positive impact on society, and to encourage creativity and the promotion of innovative projects with a purpose. Hence, the choice of an autonomous wheelchair, a key technological solution that can help improve the quality of life by providing independence and comfort to all people when accessing museums. In addition, the development of this technology also opens up a range of possibilities in the health and medical care sector.

The design of an autonomous wheelchair involves many branches of engineering. "You have to create a precise and robust control system, include sensors to detect obstacles and avoid collisions, and make an ergonomic design to guarantee comfort and safety," says Antonio Muñoz San Roque, director of the School of Engineering at Comillas Pontifical University (Comillas ICAI). In fact, the Social Tech Challenge "is a task that will promote the development and implementation of transversal skills such as teamwork, in which each participant will apply their knowledge from their area of expertise, whether it be programming, designing electronic circuits or mechanical structures, taking care of the environmental impact or ensuring the economic viability of the project", explains Muñoz.

The idea is that the teams from Comillas and the other Jesuit universities will develop innovative and functional prototypes that are capable of meeting the technical specifications and real needs of the users. Each of the universities will be represented by a team of up to six engineering students, who will tackle the challenge from a multidisciplinary approach, as they will be made up of students from different engineering degrees and master's degrees, which will encourage a diversity of perspectives and a more comprehensive approach.

The challenge will start on 1 October with each UNIJES university presenting its team. This will be followed by two months of training seminars and a preliminary report in February. The prototype will have to be finalised in June, days before the final event on 20-21 June 2024 at the University of Deusto. At this event, the teams will have to defend their prototypes, explaining the design process, the challenges encountered and overcome, and the functionalities of their autonomous wheelchairs. They will also have to put them to the test, demonstrating their functionality, efficiency and safety.

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