University of Sydney design students 'hack' needle phobias

21 May 2019
Students from the School of Architecture, Design and Planning participated in a 'hackathon' at the Westmead Education and Conference Centre in Westmead Hospital on 12 April to support children with severe needle phobias.

The design brief asked students to design an innovative technology to help children with needle phobia, which often prevents them from completing their immunisation schedule. The students were given two weeks to research the topic and define the problem based on collected evidence, develop an idea, and test their concepts using low fidelity prototypes.

“A fundamental practice of those looking after children having medical procedures in hospital is to minimise any distress associated with that procedure. Any negative experience of a medical procedure has implications wider than the immediate distress; the imprint of that experience will be left on that child for all their subsequent medical procedures,” said Dr Naseem Ahmadpour, Lecturer in Design Thinking, School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

This ongoing research project with the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and Kids Research Institute provides University students the opportunity to work on a real-world problem. The students had an all-day workshop to design and develop solutions for needle phobias and came up with great ideas including:

·       Diijit - interactive, Tamagotchi-inspired character for smart watches to distract children from vaccinations and remove negative perceptions.

·       Virtual reality – providing children with a superhero avatar to give them control of the situation

·       Augmented reality – AR pet companion to distract children from pain

·       Tablet computer – Animoji facial recognition to provide distraction and calm children

The University’s multidisciplinary course offerings at Westmead, including Design Thinking for Health and Medicine, allow students to work on real-world problems  and provides them with contextually relevant opportunities for their project.

Students are taught design-thinking skills in the context of health and medicine, enabling them to create interactive solutions and technologies with a wide range of applications from delivery of health care to better quality of life and wellbeing.

Student Han Yi Peng said that the skills learnt will be applicable in a professional career in design:

“ As a designer, it is a joy to develop and improve on products in the medical field. To help those who suffer from disabilities, or to even just make life a little bit easier is a product designer's job,” he said.

“This hackathon was very educational, it gave me a better knowledge about working under pressure as a team in achieving a common goal and purpose.”

This unit of study is one of several multidisciplinary units available at Westmead, part of the University’s student growth and expansion of course offerings on campus as outlined in the Westmead Academic Strategy. Students at Westmead have access to world-renowned clinical, research and education experts across disciplines at Westmead.

Course co-coordinators Associate Lecturer Soojeong Yoo and Dr Ahmadpour said that the opportunities for collaboration at Westmead are key to student success.

 “Westmead is such a collaborative environment,” said Associate Professor Yoo.

“Having a classroom in a hospital environment allows students to learn about and apply solutions to problems in context.”
Associate Lecturer Soojeong Yoo, School of Architecture, Design and Planning

“Students can work with clinicians and fellow students from across different disciplines to see how their research is applied in practice,” agreed Dr Ahmadpour.

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