UniversitĂ  Iuav di Venezia (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN22 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 6389-6395
ISBN: 978-84-09-42484-9
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2022.1510
Conference name: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2022
Location: Palma, Spain
This paper talks about the collaboration between a not-for-profit organisation running welfare services and Università Iuav di Venezia (Italy). The two institutions started the research project "Pedalate Virtuali" (Virtual cycling), for the development of an interactive system for dementia therapy. The project was conducted both as an academic research project and a master thesis in Product Design. The aim of the research project was to produce experimental results in the field of human-computer interfaces to build knowledge and to have an innovative working prototype.

Within this context, the two institutions decided to cooperate mutually both in the production of an original Minimum Viable Product (MVP) comprising hardware and software that could potentially be commercialised in the future, and in the enhancement of human capital through higher education and research training.

The University opened a research position that enabled the researcher not only to achieve the required objectives but to go further by writing her thesis.
The skills required by the research project were broader than the core ones included in the curriculum for the Product Design Masters’ degree course. For this reason the researcher could deepen their knowledge by virtue of the fact that there was a concrete opportunity to employ this larger set of skills while realising an MVP.

The project described in this article concerns a gentle exercise device for patients with mild dementia and Alzheimer, who are guests of the organisation. The project is an example of mutual exchange of skills and resources between an industry and academia. On one hand, the organisation, Cooperativa sociale SintesiMinerva Onlus, provided funds, facilities, staff and users; while on the other hand, the university provided know-how, scientific expertise and design skills.

The research is ongoing, but a functional prototype has already been presented and tested. The results have been analysed and discussed in order to make the appropriate changes so that the MVP can finally be handed over to the nursing home. The pandemic situation in December 2021 would have made on-field testing with real users impossible without a partnership with the industry.

For the student-researcher, the educational results of this project resulted in the acquisition of experience in the use of microcontrollers, programming languages, workshop tools and in the design and prototyping of intelligent and interactive products.

The co-operation of the two institutions therefore delivered a public service to people with mild dementia, produced knowledge on the topic of its therapy and enabled the completion of the high level training of the student-researcher.

Due to the short duration of the first step of the collaboration, it was impossible to carry out longitudinal tests, which the project tried to overcome via introducing data transmission systems from the MVP to the server. Given the explicit mutual benefits for both the institutions involved, it would be beneficial to arrange multi-annual forms of collaboration which allow the involvement of students at different levels of completion of their education path, so that the human capital and scientific knowledge acquired during the cooperation will not be dispersed and diluted but continuously renewed and strengthened.
Industry-academy cooperation, product design, alzheimer, dementia, therapy, human-computer interfaces, research project, skills exchange.