Student innovation from Lausanne to China
Twenty-five students from EPFL, UNIL and ECAL recently took part in the second China Hardware Innovation Camp, organized by EPFL’s College of Humanities. Their goal was to develop innovative prototypes ranging from connected bicycle helmets to virtual drumsticks.
How do you make the leap from a novel idea to a factory-made product? That’s the question four groups of students from EPFL, UNIL and ECAL set out to answer at the second China Hardware Innovation Camp. Under this program spearheaded by EPFL, the students spent 16 days in Hong Kong and Shenzhen learning about the different steps involved in making a prototype. By the end of the Camp, four groundbreaking devices were developed and then unveiled in a presentation to the public this fall. “It was an impressive achievement, because the students had an average of only one day a week to work on their projects,” said Marc Laperrouza, head of the CHIC program.
Becoming a musician without an instrument
Out of the students’ four innovations, Tikku is the most fun. This system includes two sensor-equipped drumsticks, an accelerometer and a gyroscope that let you play the drums virtually. It also comes with an application, so you can record your songs, run a metronome or play with other users through a multi-player feature. “With Tikku, we are targeting more the games market than the market for simulators,” said the students, who plan on continuing the development work alongside their studies.
Another invention, Hibachi, is a food container that lets you take meals with you and heat them up on the go. This wireless, battery-powered device can be programmed using a smartphone application. “Too many people wolf down a sandwich at lunch because they’re short on time. We wanted to develop a practical system that lets people eat a hot meal, even when they’re away from home,” said Chenyue Xu, a materials engineering student at EPFL and part of the group that came up with Hibachi.
Sharing your mailbox
The third innovation is Aimo, which lets people exchange items through a secure physical mailbox using a virtual key sent via an application. The device is affordable and sturdy, and can be tailored to any type of mailbox. It’s a clever system that can be used in an entire neighborhood or at a university, for example, to set up a common post box.
And the fourth, Okeep, aims to make cycling safer with a connected bicycle helmet equipped with an audio GPS and turn signals. “By improving bike riders’ safety, we hope more people in cities will switch to cycling as a means of transportation,” said Audrey Marullaz, a microengineering student.
While each of the four projects was unique, the students all faced some of the same challenges. “The hardest part was learning to work together despite our very different ways of seeing things,” said Victor Guittet, a student at ECAL. “And the language barrier was a big hurdle when we were in China. We had to be creative and come up with inventive work-arounds. It was a great learning experience.”
The 2017 Camp kicked off this fall with a workshop attended by 45 students from EPFL, UNIL, ECAL and UNIGE. The CHIC program is now being offered as a minor for EPFL students and includes a trip to China or Russia.