Engineering students will be competing in the SocialTech Challenge, which challenges them to design a self-propelled wheelchair that can be used to visit museums.

The Jesuit Universities in Spain (UNIJES) have launched this challenge for the first time, which aims to bring together engineering and technology to create a positive impact on society.

Students will have to design and manufacture self-propelled wheelchair

28 September 2023

Bilbao Campus

Deusto, in collaboration with other Jesuit universities, has launched the 1st SocialTech Challenge, a competition for engineering students whose challenge is to design and manufacture a self-propelled wheelchair that allows people with reduced mobility to enjoy a visit to a museum. This initiative coincides with the launch of the new Mathematical Engineering degree at Deusto, a pioneering degree in the Basque Country.

Bringing engineering and technology together to create a positive impact on society is the main objective of this unique challenge that seeks to encourage creativity and the promotion of innovative projects with a goal in mind. Hence, the choice of a self-propelled wheelchair, a key technological solution that can help improve quality of life by providing independence and comfort for 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.

This initiative aim is to enable teams from the Jesuit centres of Deusto, Pontificia Comillas, Ramon Llull and Loyola Andalucía to develop innovative and functional prototypes that can meet users' technical requirements and real needs. Each of the universities will be represented by a team of up to six engineering students. These groups feature 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 holistic approach.

This is because the design of a self-propelled wheelchair involves many branches of engineering. This will require a precise and robust control system, sensors to detect obstacles and avoid collisions, and ergonomic design to ensure comfort and safety. This task will enhance the development and implementation of teamwork skills, in which each participant will apply their knowledge from their area of expertise, whether programming, designing, taking into account the mechanics, taking care of the environmental impact or ensuring business feasibility…

The SocialTech Challenge will run for one year, during which participants will put into practice everything they have learnt in their various engineering Faculties. In addition to their talent and ability to create a holistic, multi-faceted solution that has real and lasting impact, the competition will assess the creativity, functionality, efficiency, usability and accessibility of the designs.

The challenge will start in October with the presentation of the teams by each UNIJES university. This will be followed by a two-month training seminar in February, when a preliminary report will be presented. The prototype will have to be finished by June, a few days before the final event, which will take place on 20 and 21 June at the University of Deusto. At this event, the teams will defend their prototypes, explaining the design process, the challenges encountered and overcome, and the features of their self-propelled wheelchairs, which they will have to test on the spot.

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