Team Penrose - Creating a literate world

How might we significantly reduce child and youth illiteracy at scale in developing countries, with the use of technology?

Through our research and interviews, we discovered several aspects of both education/learning and the various contextual influences surrounding students themselves, specifically in Ghana. From this research we decided to reframe our challenge: how do we create an enriching learning experience? By designing our solution from this perspective, we hoped to create a service environment that would leverage several opportunities for integration into our target users’ lives.

In terms of an educational service, we provide tools for learning in the form of (1) learning games, (2) challenge based learning projects, and (3) access to Wikipedia. Learning games would teach rudimentary math and literacy skills in engaging/ gamified ways. For example, our prototype included a game where users learn how to write letters by tracing letters on a screen with their hands. A camera follows the motion of their movements and determines how close their tracing is to the true letter, thus assessing their competency. Challenge based learning projects would teach higher-level skills, as well as rudimentary literacy skills. Higher-level skills would include, but not be limited to, team building & teamwork, leadership, and analytical & problem solving skills. In addition to literacy, these higher-level skills would help users be even more suited for success (and more able to deal with difficulties) in future educational and professional endeavors. Content generation of games and projects would be an internal process, adding to our service’s competitive advantage. Lastly, Wikipedia would give users access to information should they seek out information in addition to what is provided through the games and challenges.

The community experience of our solution was also highly important to us in design of both the service and the physical form of the solution itself. Great care was taken in using aesthetics that would integrate into communities well, and therefore increase acceptance. However, just as critical if not more so, is our service design, which takes into account the busy lives of children in these Ghanaian communities. Analysis of our users’ daily journeys shows that great time and importance is given to duties such as fetching water, farming, working at the market, and other responsibilities that are usually critical to family survival. Users may also spend a great deal of time walking from location to location, so it was essential to make use of the sparse, yet valuable, free time that may be available to them. Through our contacts, we found that this free time was available generally in afternoons when children would access community playgrounds. Through this insight, we decided to place our knowledge kiosk, as well as design educational services, with this free time in mind.

Our service solution is therefore a piece of technology that integrates into student lives in addition to the education they receive in more traditional forms (i.e. school) without taking away from the necessities of day-to-day life. Our challenge based learning projects, additionally, have been designed from the perspective of engagement not only from the student standpoint, but also from the community standpoint. Through interviews we learned that older children/siblings have a highly influential role in the lives of younger children/siblings. This influence applies heavily to education, where older individuals motivate and/or take on teaching roles themselves. We leveraged this insight by designing group projects that would solve community issues as well as educate users. This would engage the community and older individuals to work with younger students to create, for example, a water filter. In addition, an “enabler” would be a part of the service to help guide, steer, and assess students during the process. The enabler is an employee of the service and would be sourced from the local community.

It is this combination of both non-traditional learning methodologies (gamification and challenge based learning) along with projects that leverage community relationships (community engagement and hierarchal teaching/motivation) that is the core of the Bamboo service. Furthermore, we sent sample portions of our curriculum to our contacts in Ghana for validation and testing. From their positive feedback, we saw not only the community engagement and acceptance that we hoped for, but also the availability and high interest of children to take part in our challenge based learning projects with the guidance of an enabler. We also sent a summary of our project to individuals in the Ghana Complementary Basic Education program, and they were very enthusiastic about our solution and how our curriculum could add much greater value than the current offering.

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Team Kelvin - Food Safety

Challenge: How might we home deliver food in a new way that maintains the food cold, at a selected
temperature, ensuring its safety?

Our challenge is centred into delivering food supplies (perishable and non-perishable) in good conditions ensuring its safety. After analysing the current scenario doing interviews and benchmarking other company’ s activities we have redefined the problem considering both the role of retailers and the users. Home delivery is not profitable for retailers for many reasons: delivery business’ s margins are very low, logistics systems have a highly centralized structure which makes the whole system very rigid and always adds more steps to deliver the package at home, legislation puts a lot of restrictions on delivery and the service is perceived by the users as a costly advantage.

From the user’ s perspective, the service has several problems. First, many companies give a two-hour window to deliver and consumers have to wait at their place to receive the goods without to knowing the exact time. Second, many consumers are concerned about the quality of the food received. They feel the retailers give them low quality food.

In this way, we present a solution that makes the delivery process profitable for retailers without changing their supply chain, whereas we have relieved shoppers from the frustration of waiting at home for the shipment of their grocery. This result has been achieved by employing different insulating technologies. Indeed, we have developed a unique process which allows to combine silica aerogel (an insulating material) with paraffin-based phase-change materials (a heat absorber). This specific combination of materials is able to maintain constant the temperature of refrigerated/chilled foods, therefore preserving the safety and freshness of perishable items.

Besides insulating materials, our boxes are also equipped with sensors and RFID (radio-frequency identification) devices for providing information in real time for both retailers and shoppers. Retailers will receive information related to the delivery route and safety condition of the various food items, whereas shoppers will be continuously updated about the delivery time.

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The Mat (Food Security)

Challenge: How can we contribute to food security by decreasing the loss and waste of food?

An adaptable platform designed to create a connection between people and food, using real-time sensing technology to remove any uncertainties regarding freshness and taste. We can’t make one product that covers each and every one of your needs, but we can create a protocol, a common language, which connects different products and services. Combined, it has an unlimited potential to change the world. We can pinpoint where waste is happening and which areas are over producing food, and consequently avoid billions of tons of waste.

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INDE (Enhancing movement)

Challenge: How can we design a viable system, that allows people to restore or enhance their ability to move?

INDE: How to prevent hip fractures among elderly women? INDE is the concept of outcome from the second Challenge-Based Innovation (CBI) course organised in collaboration with CERN and multiple universities worldwide. The multi-disciplinary student team from Aalto University schools of Art & Design, Business and Engineering, ESADE Business School, IED and UPC Catalunya.

The team was given the assignment to enhance mobility. By looking to various forms of immobility, the team soon found out that a major issue in our society is the growing amount of problems related to old age. With this information, the team started looking into the significance of issues related to the falls and hip fractures caused by these falls among elderly people. The team also found out that 80% of hip fractures happen to the elderly women due to higher risk of osteoporosis and therefore the team found it reasonable to put emphasis on the women’s protective clothing.

The final working prototype presented at the CERN CBI gala by the team was a skirt attached with a reusable auto-inflator device and machine-learning algorithm to detect the fall patterns. With use of gyroscopes, accelerometers and charged carbon dioxide, auto inflation takes place before the person wearing the device hits the ground.

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EMMA (Human sensory experience)

Challenge: How can we create a system for replicating human sensory experience over distance?

We all experience minor incidents of forgetfulness, but can you imagine the difficulties faced by those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease… most can’t.Team Maxwell has developed EMMA; External Memory, Monitoring and Assist to improve the lives of sufferers.

By using advanced artificial intelligence to learn about the user, detect episodes of disorientation, confusion and panic and use this information to present appropriate information via an intuitive interface. EMMA is invaluable as an aid in maintaining independence and confidence in during the difficult early stages of Alzheimer’s or for anyone with MCI.

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Blinx (3D sensing for the visually impaired)

Challenge: How can we provide a visually impaired person an improved way to experience the world and function satisfactorily in complex environments?

The world is built for people with sight and mostly the information of the environment is delivered visually. Learning your environment becomes very difficult if you cannot see properly. For the visually impaired, team Heisenberg created the ‘BLINX’. It’s an image processor worn on the wrist which gives a tactile stimulus through vibrations when the direction of the desired item is found. It is based on image processing technology and we vision it to scale up to finding objects from just giving reference points. We believe better information leads to better decisions and giving better life. Blinx is a step into that direction.

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Sensing Interactions

Challenge: How can we design a wearable system that allows the wearers to access information about their effect on others around them by deepening the understanding of these interactions?

RIIPPL is a personal social skills training system. It is designed to assist people with social skills challenges such as Asperger’s Syndrome. These skill are essential for navigating the complexities of the world — for managing conflict, emotional resilience, developing fulfilling relationships and success at school and work. Just as fitness bands track physical exercise, RIIPPL will use wearables devices to collect data about how we interact with others. Using pattern recognition software, will identify social situations which make a user anxious and skills that are causing problems, like making conversational. It can suggest training exercises and challenges, track progress and provide real-time feedback and encouragement.

The goal is to empower users to develop the skills they need to confidently engage with others and realise their full potential.

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Sensing Spaces

Challenge: How can we empower the individuals to affect their surroundings by using a combination of environmental data and interpretations of human behaviors? And how could we enhance this with context‐aware, personalized and anticipatory services on e.g. well being, security and safety?

While systems already exist for making the home and industrial workplaces more comfortable and productive, everyday work spaces like offices, small shops, and hotels do not have good access to these solutions. Unfortunately, this means that for most Facility Managers, knowledge of what is happening inside the buildings they manage is almost non-existent. Our solution, therefore, focused on getting information from the building to the Facility Manager.

We decided to use sound to capture the sonic biorhythm of the entire space which allows an intelligent software application to detect when things go wrong, many times even before the failures become expensive problems. We also created an easy way for the people within the buildings to tell the Facility Manager what is happening from a human perspective. By combining these two information gathering methods, our solution gives the Facility Manager a holistic view of the buildings they manage in order to prevent, maintain, and improve the quality of everyday spaces.

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How would you help autistic kids to learn social skills? Edumind concept is the outcome of one of the first two challenges launched by Challenge Based innovation Course (CBI) in collaboration with CERN.

The multidisciplinary student team discovered that autistic children need a specific environment for comfortably interacting and learning together with their peers – and, almost as a side product, acquire intuitive social skills. The Edumind concept is an educational platform that combines the benefits of the tangible and the digital worlds for meeting these needs.



Physical mind is a learning platform for autistic kids for acquiring intuitive social skills during school days. Bearing in mind the characteristically low tolerance for
unexpected, uncontrollable situations, our aim was to create a structured framework for lowering the threshold for social initiation and collaborative learning. The platform consists of a multi-touch surface with a tangible user interface – intelligent blocks adjusting audio, visual and tactile feedback to users’ responses andthus optimizing the level of difficulty for both players.


Social skills through therapy activities

Tangible mind is a collaborative platform opportune for teaching therapy activities such as the Theory of mind within the school environment. The benefits of using a computer assisted platform with a tangible user interface is the identification of different users, making it possible to:


  • Track responses and keep all stakeholders – parents, teachers and therapists, updated about the child’s progress.
  • Based on responses, adjust to the user’s level in real time by varying the amount, speed, intensity and type of prompt.
  • Carry on the activity together with another child of a different level.
  • Maintain motivation by providing the ideal level of difficulty for both participants.
  • Overall, reduce the time needed for the child-therapist interaction and thus make the therapy affordable to more users.


The multisensorial platform (multitouch table and EDUblocks) offer a more engaging media for teaching the Theory of Mind protocol:


  • Through physical activity, the platform allows the children to participate in narrating theory-of-mind-related sequences.
  • The child’s own involvement supports relating to the stories and makes the therapy more interesting.
  • Collaborative activity with concrete objects augments attention to the other participant’s actions, needs and beliefs, which adds a new dimension in learning the theory of mind.
  • The adjustability and variance of prompts (visual, tactile and audio) contributes in making the learning more efficient.


Social skills through real-life practice

In parallel to the therapy activities, we propose adding a new dimension to learning social skills through real-life interaction with peers. Resulting in our field research in autistic schools and families, we found out that autistic children have a high threshold for approaching and maintaining relations with other kids due to the fear of unpredictable social situations.

This challenge could be overcome by providing a safe, controlled environment for familiarizing with peer-interaction. The Tangible Mind framework is based on a supportive the software – learning activities with turn-taking and collaborative exercises – with the feeling of control enabled by the physical platform. Nonetheless, in order to prepare for spontaneous social interaction, our aim is to eventually remove the dependency of technology by step-by-step fading away the framework.

Besides, the EDUs could have a great advantage for attracting joint attention and mutual awareness between the participants during the activity, making it possible to learn to pick up natural social cues. Our tangible user-interface is especially suitable for children, presenting intuitive, natural ways for learning and trying out new things.


Augmented reality

In the future, we think that presenting the support to the social situations through augmented reality overlay, for example by pairing unobtrusive AR glasses with the learning platform would help in overcoming this challenge. As advancement from the currently proposed shared 2D-platform with a tangible user interface, an augmented reality space projected between the kids could bring the interaction closer to the eye-level and natural social interaction, as well as underline the shared activity


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Overall we have arrived to a learning solution that has the potential to revolutionize the way people learn from each other in organizations. We have successfully used TALENT as an extreme user group that faces major communication challenges since they work in one of the most complicated projects ever attempted. Our solution to their needs and issues works and takes communication and learning to the 10.1 level.

The process on how this was achieved is a mess and we would actually argue that our success is not dependent on the process. The way how we arrived to the gala with CMPRSSD was more dependent on the environment we were working at and the team we were working with, rather than the the steps we took to arrive to the end. The people who worked to make CMPRSSD happen deserve the credit and the way those people came together as team.

How it happened is unclear, however beer and wine was involved. In the end it is all about the people, people who are motivated and passionate about what they are doing. Furthermore, people need a place that motivates and inspires them. We could not think of a more inspiring place than CERN to work at, even though architecturally not the most eye catching place we have seen. The passion people at CERN share towards their work is catching. We were inspired to be part of CERN and act as a tool to share the knowledge generated by CERN to society.

However, is this the end for our team and for CMPRSSD? No this is the beginning. Several options exists, we plan to continue working with CMPRSSD at least in some way. We are entering the concept into competitions in order to get some initial funding. By gaining funding we could continue the development of CMPRSSD and in the end offer it as a product that helps organizations to revolutionize the way they communicate and learn.

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