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Engineering student interns from TU Dublin get involved in Hands-on SHAFE

Engineering student interns from TU Dublin get involved in Hands-on SHAFE

16/07/2021

Over the past two academic years, two successive cohorts of electronic engineering and computer engineering students from TU Dublin have been engaged in SHAFE community-based learning project work.

This activity is a supporting engagement initiative by Hands-on SHAFE partner TU Dublin, team members Michael Core, Paula Kelly, Charlie Pritchard, Mariana Rochas and John McGrory have guided and worked with groups of engineering student interns on topics relating to SHAFE. The goal of this effort over the two years has been to support the work of the Hands-on SHAFE project as well as providing valuable work experience for the students.

In 2020, the TU Dublin engineering interns worked on the first content prototypes for the Hands on SHAFE SMART content and experimented with different approaches including producing video content and animations to convey the technical content.

The initial focus of the 2021 intern cohort was to familiarise themselves with the context and rational for the project and its domain, the project structure, reporting mechanisms and tools required to produce content within the timeframe of the project’s deadlines. They attended a number of training sessions facilitated by TU Dublin SHAFE team to help with this. Working in teams, the interns then reviewed and provided valuable comments and feedback on the SMART modules already developed by the TU Dublin team. The main focus for the interns next turned to designing and developing draft content for the maps, timetables and calendar SMART module and draft content for a second SMART module on wearables where they contributed ideas and content for the work by experimenting with wearable devices such as chest straps and key finder devices. Overall the interns gained valuable experience of creative/technical group project work as well as the experience of working on part of an EU research project.

Inspired by the Hands-on SHAFE based work placements a number of the interns from the 2020 cohort completed final year projects to provide age-friendly engineering solutions, including a smart doorbell that recognises trusted visitors (Conor McKitterick), and a cloud-based system to allow users to practice managing calls and texts on a smartphone, by automatically receiving and returning calls and texts in a gamified way (Muharram Bensaad).

Another positive outcome of this work was that it enabled the interns to get a unique immersive experience of the SHAFE process while enabling the SHAFE idea to be passed to young members of the global engineering community. It is anticipated that these talented young engineers will carry this experience into their professional careers and continue to be mindful of age-friendly issues in their future work in the engineering profession.

Pierce Lowe who was a team leader in the 2021 group at TU Dublin, found that the experience opened new perspectives on his role as an engineer... "It was a great learning experience. It forced us to approach technology from a new perspective of providing learning materials for people who may find technology challenging and are not confident users of what others may consider to be basic devices, such as a mobile phone."

...."I think the biggest thing for me, that interested me most, was looking at how we interact with technology and not being able to use everyday language that we use when talking about technology, with throw away sentences like "I'm sending a text", "Would you Google that for me?" or "You can just download it from the App Store", but instead having to think about every action and each step that goes into the process, of sending a text or downloading an app, etc."

 Shaira Vargas, another team leader among the 2021 interns also found the experience to be a valuable one.

“…“It was a privilege to join the TU Dublin SHAFE. Contributing to this excellent initiative allowed me to develop skills that I know will be useful in my future roles. I found that this experience has definitely helped me understand the importance of making technology age-friendly. As someone who is in the technology industry, I believe it is important that I recognise this in order to contribute to the development of technologies that are not only user-friendly but also accessible, adaptable, and tailored to the needs of the ageing population.”