Future engineers showcase designs to help people with disabilities

(l-r) Finalists in the Emma Wiggs Challenge: Owen Green, Marian Bumbar, Thomas Potts, Sophie Walters, Luke Scofield and Maïann Seymour with Paralympic Champion, Emma Wiggs MBE
(l-r) Finalists in the Emma Wiggs Challenge: Owen Green, Marian Bumbar, Thomas Potts, Sophie Walters, Luke Scofield and Maïann Seymour with Paralympic Champion, Emma Wiggs MBE

Apprentices at Oxfordshire Advanced Skills (OAS) based at the UK Atomic Energy Authority's Culham Campus, have come up with innovative design concepts to help people with disabilities in the final of the Emma Wiggs Challenge 2024.

Double paralympic champion Emma Wiggs MBE, who launched the competition for a second time following the success of last year’s event, was one of the judges assessing the entries which showcased how design engineering can be used to improve life for people with disabilities.

Currently in training for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris, Ms Wiggs has become a trailblazer for paracanoeing in the UK. Her impressive track record includes gold medals at both the Rio and Tokyo games.

She had previously tasked the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), which provides training for the Oxfordshire site, to design a bespoke canoe paddle with which she achieved gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Through the Emma Wiggs Challenge, a competition designed in partnership with MTC Training and OAS, learners have been creating design solutions around everyday tasks which someone with a disability might find challenging.

The apprentices worked on their design concepts individually or in small teams, supported by virtual workshops with Ms Wiggs who was on hand to answer questions, allowing them to refine their designs.

The winning entry was Sense-Aid designed by Sophie Walters. Inspired by her own personal experience with autism, and others in the autistic community, the new product aims to help autistic adults find comfort and grounding in times of stress.

The wrist band, which is produced from different fabrics, and refined using research, community surveys, and CAD, is designed to support and empower autistic adults with a practical, portable product in a market which offers primarily child-centred solutions.

The runner-up project was Brush designed by the team of Thomas Potts, Luke Scofield and Owen Green. The team identified the problem for wheelchair users of dirt building up on tyres and the challenge of cleaning them before going into a building. Brush is an easy-to-clip-on unit which cleans as it goes and is 3D printed using PLA (polylactic acid) and flexible TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane).

Another finalist was The Braille Knife designed by Marian Bumbar intended to help people with restricted sight in the kitchen.

Ms Wiggs said: “I have been absolutely blown away by the unique solutions that the finalists have produced. I’ve been delighted to work with and advise the apprentices on their projects and have been truly inspired by the way they have approached the task, including their research to understand and identify some of the challenges affecting people with all types of disabilities.”

For more information on the Emma Wiggs Challenge on the OAS website: www.oas.ukaea.uk/the-emma-wiggs-challenge

Manufacturing Technology Centre


Oxfordshire Advanced Skills


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