Monday, September 29, 2008

Erasmus - first impressions

This post will be quite longish because there have been a lot of things happening around me recently. On the last Wednesday I became an “Erasmus kid”, so for next half year I will be living in one of the sunniest cities in SpainValencia where I will be taking part in a international project called European Project Semester (EPS). Our group has around 40 students all from different countries, academic backgrounds and levels of studies. Having only completed second year of my bachelor studies, I feel less advanced with my education comparing to the other students. Our group consists of 14 nationalities - we have quite a few Dutch, a group of Americans, Germans, Austrians, 2 Italian girls, a couple from France, 2 guys from Finland, girls from: Sweden, Slovakia, Romania, Tahiti, Mexico and an Australian. I think that I’m quite lucky as there are no other Polish people apart from me. Because generally, I have an impression that all Erasmus exchanges are dominated by ubiquitous Poles, what can I say we’re just everywhere …

So on Thursday and Friday we had 8 presentations of 8 different projects to choose from. They are all very varied, connecting design with different fields of science, like for example biochemistry, physics, robotics and more. I would like to choose one, that concerns some consumer based product, with the aim on the human factors. There are 3 projects that seem quite interesting for me:

1. designing a robot for human assistance

2. developing a new product or service related to leisure industry

3. designing for adaptation and accessibility of products and environments

My first impression was quite negative. I was disappointed by methodology of research and the expected outcomes. But after some reflection I came to a conclusion that each project depends very much on students – our experiences and skills; and we the ones who are going to set the goals. The project leader Pedro made a point, that the aim of this study, is to develop our the soft skills, like: communication, working with international team and overcoming differences. I believe this may be more valuable experience, than designing some fancy piece of equipment. Actually, it may happen, that we do both, because ‘intersection drive innovation” as it's been said.

Well, so coming back to discussion about projects, each of the three rang a bell.

A robot topic is recently very close to my heart after watching (at least 5 times) Disney movie ‘Wall.e’. I am not being childish here, it was just incredible for me how in the movie where there is hardly any text can be so much emotions. The two robots, that could say only their names and don’t have human faces show all sorts of emotions, like sadness, embarrassment, astonishment, love and many more.

Well, in the project we are asked to designed a robot that could assist and take care of older people. Actually, today I was looking through the internet archive of polish magazine Polityka and I found really interesting article about bad social impact of the fact, that there is not enough care facilities for senior citizens in Poland. All the responsibility for the old, often ill grandparents falls on their children – 30-40 years-olds. After they have brought up their children, they have to take care for their parents. This is often very hard, especially if the grandperson has some illness – Alzheimer, cancer, disability. Maybe assistant robots could be an answer for this problem in the future.

to be continued