The First Monash-Petrosains Gerontechnology Challenge 2018
By: Jeffery Yeow Teh Thiry and Dr. Teh Pei Lee
Bright and early on 5th May 2018, the Design Thinking Workshop hosted by Petrosains was underway, marking the first-time contestants of the Monash-Petrosains Gerontechnology Challenge 2018 were able to meet one another. The Gerontechnology Challenge is a collaboration between Monash University Malaysia’s Gerontechnology Laboratory and Petrosains in an effort to encourage younger people to expend their creativity, expertise or technological knowledge with hopes of producing innovative solutions to address the needs of older people. In addition to the main organisers, the Challenge is also supported by the Health and Well-Being cluster of the Global Asia in the 21st Century Platform, and the Malaysian Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Technology and Engineering Management Society (TEMS).
The lucky ten teams present on the occasion were selected from a pool of 35 teams of hopeful applicants from various high schools and universities, with several teams consisting of older adult members as well.
Director of the Centre of Learning & Innovation in Petrosains, Dr. Daniel Loy in his welcoming speech to the contestant teams.
To start the proceedings, after some welcoming speeches by the organisers, the contestants were promptly involved in a large ice-breaking activity to relieve the nerves and allow the contestants from the various teams to interact with the event facilitators, each other, and most importantly, their eight “Mentors” for the day. As part of the Design Thinking Workshop, several older adults from various walks of life, consisting of engineers, lecturers, inventors, etc. invited to the event served as Mentors to help guide the contestant teams to reassess and identify how to better improve their respective innovative solutions.
The Attendees in heavy discussion as part of one of the day’s numerous workshop activities.
After the Mentors’ respective introductions, the contestants were provided with a brief yet informative lecture on the basics of design thinking to get them started, immediately followed by an opportunity for each of the contestant groups to highlight their respective innovations through delivering a quick pitch. Here the contestants were finally able to get a sense of the other teams’ innovations for the first time, with examples including but not limited to: a solar-powered wheelchair, a specialised-needs networking phone application, and a smart-pillbox.
Associate Professor Dr. Teh Pei Lee, the lead researcher of the Monash Malaysia Gerontechnology Lab in her closing speech to the contestant teams.
As the days activities and subsequent workshop exercises went on, it was soon lunchtime, giving everyone a well-deserved break to gather their thoughts and casually interacts with their fellow attendees. Here, several attendees were given the opportunity to try an “Age Simulation Suit” from Japan intended to simulate several common physical limitations often faced by older adults, to better get a sense of the physicality of movement of their targeted users of their proposed innovations.
The proceedings then continued on schedule with the remaining workshop activities planned for the day, focusing on various aspects of design thinking, such as a demonstration of prototyping and other relevant topics of interest. The main workshop activities eventually concluded with a revised pitch session from each of the contestant teams, to showcase all that they have learned and absorbed.
Finally, to cap off the days packed agenda was a presentation by Associate Professor Dr. Teh Pei Lee, the lead researcher of the Monash Malaysia Gerontechnology Lab (as well as one of the main organizing committee of the Challenge), and with that, the Design Thinking Workshop drew to a close. Hereafter, the contestant teams would receive additional time and funding to continue developing their ideas for the upcoming Grand Finals of the Gerontechnology Challenge on 4th August 2018.
Gerontechnology (ISSN/EISSN 1569-1101 1569-111X) is the official journal of the International Society for Gerontechnology