CERN Accelerating science

CERN’s CBI Course Welcomes New Students

What do you get when you mix students from around the world with detector technologies developed at CERN and ask them to solve societal problems? Welcome to the Challenge-Based Innovation course.

The CBI students at IdeaSquare – a CERN building currently being renovated, which will be inaugurated in December.

Students at CERN are no surprise; the Laboratory welcomes hundreds each year. But these 45 students, travelling from Spain, Finland, Norway, Italy and even Australia, are studying design, engineering, business and more. With their mix of backgrounds, they have come to CERN this week to view detector technologies in a very different way.

They are here to follow the Challenge-Based Innovation (CBI) course, a Masters-level student programme developed by CERN in collaboration with a number of universities worldwide. They will be grouped into six teams and shown a range of detector technologies in collaboration with coaches and inspiration partners. In just six months, they will seek to develop prototypes in a number of fields ranging from aiding the blind and the elderly to improving food security (see box).

“The aim is to develop human-centred solutions where the needs of the people become the guidelines for designing the various prototypes,” explains Tuuli Utriainen, CBI course coordinator at CERN. “After an initial two weeks at CERN, the students will return to their respective countries to continue working on the concepts, before coming back to CERN early next year to present their results.” 

The course follows on from a pilot CBI course that began in 2013, in which students developed prototypes to aid meeting communications and to improve the learning experiences of autistic children.

“We learnt a lot from the initial pilot course,” explains Joona Kurikka, a PhD student from the Aalto University in Finland who is working with Tuuli to coordinate the course. “A new feature that we have implemented for this year is a collaborative teaching platform to allow the participating institutes to exchange not only ideas but also teaching methods.”

“The ideas will certainly evolve over time, and the final prototypes could be surprising and different from what we expect when we propose these challenges now,” continues Tuuli. “We can’t wait to see the results in February 2015!”

The challenges

The six student teams will each be given one of the challenges below as a starting point for its six-month project.

  • How could blind people benefit from sensor technology?
  • How could we enable natural interaction in telepresence solutions?
  • How could sensor technology aid facility management or the interaction with spaces?
  • How could food security benefit from cryogenics or other technologies such as insulation?
  • How could an ageing population benefit from exoskeleton designs?
  • How could wearable sensors increase our understanding of human interactions?

The CBI course is one of the activities carried out by the Development and Innovation Unit led by Marzio Nessi and Markus Nordberg in the DG Unit. As CBI forms part of the students’ Masters curriculum, the participating universities provide their funding for the students. As the course continues to develop, the organisers are working to build partnerships with additional Member and non-Member State universities.

By Kate Kahle