Teamwork is key to science show

Engineering for Life    Engineering for Life    exhibition at Hallam University picture shows... Simeon Yates  explains how a new system of replacing damaged discs without surgery works.
Engineering for Life Engineering for Life exhibition at Hallam University picture shows... Simeon Yates explains how a new system of replacing damaged discs without surgery works.
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back pain, germs in public toilets and living with a medical condition.

These diverse, but everyday, problems and their solutions are explored in a £1 million Sheffield Hallam University project on show today.

Science, art, sports engineering and design academics have taken the unusual step of working together, instead of in isolation, to produce 30 ‘interdisciplinary’ projects.

And the three-year Engineering for Life collaborative has been so successful some ideas – like a unique hydrogel injection to ease lower back pain – have attracted commercial interest to potentially impact future lives.

Hundreds of Sheffield people have also been involved in shaping projects, from a mastectomy bra to an interactive smart floor that encourages fitness.

Dr Alaster Yoxall, from the university’s art and design research centre, said: “This has been about creating a new way of thinking.

“That’s what Hallam has managed to do very successfully.

“If you think of interdisciplinary working in the broadest sense that includes the general public, and we have done that here.”

Collaborations in the project exhibition, called Encompass, include the clash of art and design with health and wellbeing.

Teams worked together to create new tableware for patients with arthritis or Parkinson’s – but in a way that made it look less medical or institutionalised.

Dr Yoxall said: “It is a bigger project than just a new knife and cup. We can now apply this research thinking elsewhere.”

Other projects have brought vulnerable groups of old and younger people together through animation and explored how to create motion capture tools by using just a £100 X-Box Connect.

They also explain the complex aerodynamics of a shuttlecock with a film and look into how to stop germs spreading in public toilets.

Professor Simeon Yates, who leads one of five research centres involved, explained how turning the insides of mobile phones into jewellery highlighted what rare materials are inside.

He said: “It’s about communicating to the public that if you throw this away, you are throwing away gold, silver, silicone. It shows how much of these precious materials are in everyday objects.”

The exhibition was open at Hallam Hall, at the main university building off Arundel Gate, Sheffield city centre, until 5pm today.