« Back to news

3D “Touch Book” for the blind wins Begbroke Science Park (BSP) 2016 Innovation Showcase Award

3D “Touch Book” for the blind wins Begbroke Science Park (BSP) 2016 Innovation Showcase Award

blog image

Girls from Wycombe Abbey School pitched their novel ‘feelable’ touch screen tablet to the judges at Begbroke Science Park, winning the sought-after 2016 BSP Innovation Showcase Award. 

BSP welcomed 44 Year 9 and 10 pupils from five schools in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire to their annual Innovation Showcase, asking them to try their hand at turning cutting edge science into commercial business ideas. The six teams took recent scientific discoveries and developed them into new commercial products, presenting their designs and business plans ‘Dragons Den style’ in competition for the coveted Innovation Showcase trophy.

The winning team’s idea of a “Touch Book” would allow blind people to read braille and feel objects on a tablet screen without having to rely on audio descriptions.

The technology works by applying an electrical current with varying voltages on the screen. When a finger is run across the surface, touch receptors in the skin are ‘tricked’ into responding as if there is a particular texture. The specific type of texture (e.g. rough, smooth, bumpy or sticky) depends on the frequency and amplitude with which the voltage varies. It is also possible to give the illusion of a 3D shape – like large bumps, ridges and troughs. The team caught the judges’ attention with their exceptional presentation, well thought out strategy, innovative thinking and clear routes to market.   

The Innovation Showcase, now in its 6th year, was hard-fought, with the other teams also developing great ideas including origami robot toys, novel sound insulating headphones, mood manipulating software for people with depression and a dolphin-inspired radar device to help detect explosive devices.

The pupils also had the opportunity to visit two of BSP’s leading research laboratories and see first-hand how studying science can lead to many exciting careers.

Graham Hillsdon showed how the University of Oxford’s Impact Laboratory is working to make aeroplanes safer, whilst in the Advanced Processing Laboratory pupils were shown various machines that help scientists scale up research to prove their theories at an industrial scale, led by Robin Vincent from the Processing of Advanced Materials research group.

Chloe a pupil from Wychwood School said of her visit “I had a really good time. It was both enjoyable and informative. It’s amazing to know what can be created because of Science and an idea. Thank you very much Begbroke Science Park”.

Ms Vowles, Assistant Head Teacher at Wallingford School described the day as “A really worthwhile event. The talks and tour were hugely interesting and the innovation competition enables pupils to thrive”.

Mrs Jones, Director of Science and STEM at Wycombe Abbey commented “Very many thanks for running the event. It really is an excellent format; the students can really get creative with a science theme and they enjoyed it hugely”.

Judging this year’s Showcase Caroline Livingstone, Manager of BSP, commented “This event is great fun. It’s inspiring to see the pupils involved in the kind of activities that form the heart of BSP. This year the competition was hard fought and the winners are well deserved.

The event forms part of the BSP School Event Series. Future events include the Practical Nanoscience Workshop for schools for KS3/4 students on 15 June 2016; and a Practical Nanoscience Workshop for KS3/4/5 and BTEC science teachers, on 13 July 2016; for more information or to book a place email events@begbroke.ox.ac.uk.

Share this: