Apprentices adapt sensor technology for use by Edinburgh Royal Blind School pupils
The innovative use of sensor technology by apprentices at Leonardo’s Edinburgh site is helping students attending Edinburgh's Royal Blind School. They have been working with the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh to help find a way to make it possible for visually impaired users of a computerised power wheelchair (The Smart Platform, supplied by Smile Rehab) to navigate their way to the right classroom.
At present, the school uses, among other strategies, wall mounted signifiers to indicate to the pupils that they have arrived at the correct classroom. For example, a signifier of a paintbrush indicates that a pupil has arrived at their art class. However, students who use the Smart platform currently rely on their staff to take the signifier off the wall and pass it to them to indicate they have arrived at the classroom.
Apprentices Macaulay Jarrett, Gavin Davis, Luke Smith and Scott Robertson have adapted existing sensor technology in a creative way. Radio Frequency tabs, similar to those found in central locking keys for cars and passports, will be positioned at pre-determined places on the white track which the Smart platform follows. A sensor attached to the Smart platform will pick up the signal from these tabs and will process it and announce the name of the classroom the pupil has arrived at.
Apprentice Macaulay Jarrett said: "We decided we wanted to use a friendly familiar voice of one of the school staff for the sensor, to make the pupils feel more relaxed and at home. We visited the school and it was quite amazing to see how the pupils are able to manage and we feel proud to work with technology which will make them feel even more independent."
Billy Barrowman, Apprentice Training Officer at Leonardo, said: "The apprentices really put their heart into this project, as I think they were incredibly impressed by the school and had a genuine desire to enhance the students' quality of life. They took a professional approach and with mentoring from Michael Gray, Senior Mechanical Engineer and myself, built the project from scratch, from gathering the bill of materials to exploring the best means of developing the sensor technology."
The apprentices are hoping that an initial trial of the technology will lead to wider use of the sensors at the school to give the students greater independence.
Clare Mackenzie, Occupational Therapist at the Edinburgh Royal Blind School first decided to approach Leonardo apprentices due to her existing knowledge of the sensor technology expertise at the business through her husband, who works at the company as a Lead Engineer. Clare said: "It's been a great experience to work alongside the Leonardo apprentices and helpful to get their engineering expertise in being able to move forward a project that will give a new dimension to the use of the Smart platform."