App tackling loneliness reaches competition final in Texas

A team of Swansea University students, who have invented an app to tackle loneliness, have made it through to the grand final of a worldwide design competition taking place in Texas this month.

The competition, called “Invent for the Planet”, is run by Texas A&M University and is open to students from thirty one universities around the world. Swansea University was the only UK university invited to participate.

The students are given a brief to design a product meeting a specific need, such as preventing fatal road accidents, treatment for malaria, virtual reality, providing access to clean water, stopping fake news, and preventing loneliness. They then have to research the topic, devise a product, build a prototype and then pitch it to a panel of judges.

Swansea University say they entered six teams, all from the College of Engineering, which were made up of thirty two students from thirteen countries. The teams whittled down to five by a team of external judges. One of the Swansea University teams, the Super Socials, was one of the five teams chosen.

All five members of the Super Socials will now fly out to Texas for the final. The winning team will receive a $3,000 prize.

The team’s winning idea was an app that promotes face to face social engagement and activities, to help prevent loneliness. Users can earn points by meeting new people, creating and participating in events. These points can later be redeemed for items or at local businesses.

Tofazzal Rashid, a member of the winning team, said “I really enjoyed the whole experience and working as part of a team. Taking our concept from just an idea to an entire design was a really interesting and exciting process. I am excited about the visit to Texas and presenting our concept to new audiences there.”

The team’s success in this competition is another product of the flourishing partnership that Swansea University has built with leading universities in Texas, like A&M. The partnership also includes student exchange schemes and research collaborations in areas such as nanomedicine.

Dr Caroline Coleman-Davies, who manages the Texas partnership at Swansea University, said “Texas A&M is an internationally renowned university with whom we have a long-established relationship and I was excited to help deliver Invent for the Planet in Swansea once again. The chance to work in multidisciplinary teams and interact with participants all over the world is a unique opportunity for our students, as is the chance to travel to Texas to complete in the global final. I am excited to accompany the group on their visit and look forward to supporting them in the final.”

Professor Steve Brown, Head of the College of Engineering at Swansea University, said “As a member of the Invent for the Planet judging panel I was extremely impressed at the concepts, prototypes and pitches that all of our teams were able to develop in just 48 hours. I was delighted to learn that the Swansea winning team has been selected to participate in the Invent for the Planet final in Texas and wish them every success!”

Kelly Jordan, Swansea University Entrepreneurship Officer, said “I was blown away with the innovative ideas and how the students presented themselves and their ideas throughout the weekend, showing how truly entrepreneurial they are. I feel honoured to have been involved and hope the students learnt as much from my influence as I did from theirs.”

The event is delivered by a cross Swansea University team including Dr Caroline Coleman-Davies from the Texas Strategic Partnership, Charlotte Ajomale and Dr Sarper Sarp from the College of Engineering, and Kelly Jordan from Research, Engagement and Innovation Services. The panel of judges features Swansea University academics and alumni, including graduates now working for Tata Steel UK, Rolls Royce, and TSC NDT – Eddyfi Technologies. The final presentation showdown is on April 24th.

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