Signing solutions to help others
The scheme is funded by Cascade, the Faculty of Engineering and the Centre for Additive Manufacturing and aims to expose students to real-life challenges. As part of OPAD (Open-source Assistive Devices) you can use the skills you learn in your course to help people and because you will work in groups with students on other courses, you can pick up new skills from them too.
OPAD was started in 2016 within the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, only being open to students from Mechanical Engineering, Product Design and Manufacturing Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering. Since then, OPAD has students from different courses, including all engineering disciplines, medicine, health sciences, pharmacy, various science courses and computer sciences and more.
Since the academic year 2019/20, OPAD is also a student society. The student committee will be working together with the staff committee to grow OPAD in the coming years.
We are immensely proud to share some of the exciting projects our student groups have worked on this year with you.
Visit the OPAD end of year showcase 2021/22
What students on OPAD do
OPAD stands for Open-source Assistive Devices and students who take part in OPAD will be working groups to design assistive devices that could help people who have difficulties to perform daily tasks such as opening jars or putting on socks. We have students from a wide range of disciplines such as engineering, architecture, medicine, physiotherapy, pharmacy and computer science taking part in OPAD. This enables students to learn from each other and gain skills they would not learn otherwise, as well as to meet like-minded people from across the university.
At the start of the academic year, students can choose projects from a list provided by the OPAD team or suggest their own. Groups are then formed and the students start to gather ideas and conduct research. Design Studios are booked every week where student groups can meet to work on their project, but also to meet other groups and see what they are working on. Committee members as well as some staff attend these weekly meetings to assist the student groups.
Being part of OPAD has been a wonderful experience and has given me an insight into how some of the devices and technology we encourage patients to use are created.
Throughout the year, student groups meet regularly to work on their project with the aim to produce a prototype device. At certain points of the year, internal showcase events are taking place, where the groups can update all OPAD members on their progress and get feedback from their peers and staff.
In the second term around March/April we have a Final Showcase event which takes place at the end of the academic year. This event aims at showcasing the projects to the wider university and our partners from the community and celebrate the hard work and effort our students have put in over the year. There will be two prizes awarded, Project of the Year and Best Presentation Poster.
Being part of OPAD has been an enjoyable and educational experience. I feel that I have benefitted greatly from the process of being able to take an idea from a concept to a physical prototype, since this development is often oversimplified or pre-determined in the projects I otherwise encounter on my degree course.
Students also get the opportunity to meet with people who might use their devices to get feedback from them, through the links OPAD has built with community partners, such as ,Nottingham Universities Hospitals NHS Trust and the Able Orchestra, a orchestra consisting of disabled children and young adults. Linking their projects to actual people brings the projects to life and provide a strong motivation for students.
The type of projects that students can work on are very varied. Here are some examples students have worked on since OPAD was started:
- Cutlery holder for people with reduced mobility in their fingers.
- Stylus to use a tablet or smart phone for a person with a disability.
- Chopping board for people who are missing a hand or can only use one hand.
- Reminder device for people with early stage dementia.
- Ear defender for children with autism that are waterproof and can be used with a helmet.
- Adaptors for a controller used by the Able Orchestra to make the use more comfortable.
- A glove removal device to minimise the risk of contamination in healthcare settings.
Training and support
OPAD provides our students with a unique learning opportunity, where they can gain skills and experience in areas outside of their different courses that can be useful in their future careers. To support their learning in these new areas, OPAD offers a wide range of guest lectures, information sessions and mandatory training sessions.
- Safeguarding awareness training - as students might potentially meet vulnerable adults and children, it is important that they have an understanding of safeguarding and how to react if they encounter a safeguarding issue. Students also have to follow a code of conduct to ensure everyone involved in OPAD is safeguarded.
- Ethics - before meeting with any participant, students have to gain ethics approval from the relevant university ethics committee. OPAD provides students with training on how to complete the relevant ethics forms and gives them an understanding of the importance of working in an ethical way.
- Working with participants - as working with participants to encourage a user centric design approach is a big part of OPAD, we offer our students training in how to conduct a session with participants and how to get the best out of the session. The training has been co-created with a medical student who participated in OPAD.
I have enjoyed being part of the project and gaining experience working in a team of such varied backgrounds and expertise. I also found it useful to get my first experience of preparing an ethics application form, as this gave me an insight into some of the university rules around studies and how the university checks and approves these, which I hope will be useful to me in future.
Guest lectures, to be confirmed for this academic year.
There is also a dedicated OPAD team, consisting of enthusiastic academic and administrative staff to support students throughout the year. And PhD students also join OPAD, either to be part of a group or to mentor student groups. Additionally, technicians from some of the engineering labs also support students with printing their prototypes and giving guidance and advice on the best 3D printing process to use.
Working with the community
A big part of OPAD is the opportunity for students to meet with people in the community who might use their device. Bringing students together with potential users, brings the projects to life and adds another dimension. The projects are not just an intellectual exercise, but could change someone's life for the better. To achieve this, OPAD has built links with partners in the community, such as:
Different ways we work with our partners in the community
- Focus groups - our students can get feedback on their designs from people who might use their device to inform their designs and ensure they are fit for purpose
- Projects - our partners in the community provide us with project ideas our students can take on.
- Working with individuals - if an individual approaches us with a request for a bespoke device, our students will work them to try and manufacture a device that is tailored to their needs. Health and Safety is one of the most important things, so we have processes and procedures in place to ensure that any device we hand over is safe to use.
Benefits of being part of OPAD
Being part of OPAD gives students a lot of benefits, including:
- Meeting like-minded people from different disciplines - learning skills from each other that students would not learn in their course, but also gaining a new view point on how to solve challenges
- Working on real life projects - students have the chance to work on a project that might be used, instead of a theoretical project as they would in their degree course
- Helping people in our community - through our links with various partners in the community, students get the opportunity to create something that might change someone's life for the better
- Deepening your understanding of your own subject - by working in a group with people from other disciplines, students are likely to pass on the knowledge of their subject, which will help them to deepen the understanding of their own subject
- Gaining and/or improving a wide range of soft skills - such as communication skills, team working skills, problem solving, project management skills, meeting deadlines, etc.
If you are a staff member or doing a PHD, we would love to have you be part of the OPAD team to support. You can do this is the following ways.
- Join a group to work with students to address challenging problems.
- Mentor a group to support their progress.
- Share your knowledge and expertise by giving guest lectures.
- Become an OPAD Expert by providing advice and guidance in your area of expertise to groups when needed.
- Become an OPAD Ambassador to help publicise OPAD by word of mouth to gain contacts for potential projects.
- Offering group and individual projects on related OPAD subjects.
- Be formally involved with helping to set-up projects, relations with other disciplines and industrial partners, running workshops, etc.
If you want to sign up, please fill out this form.
If you need further information, please direct your emails to email@example.com
In September and October, we will be holding information sessions about OPAD, we will send out invites to you all so you can come along to an in person session. These sessions will be held on:
- Wednesday 28th September: 4.00pm-5.00pm
- Wednesday 5th October: 1.00pm-2.00pm
- We will have variety of projects to join and then we will be holding a Launch event on Wednesday 12th October 2.00pm-4.00pm
If you would like to register your interest to become a student member of Opad, please fill out this form.
OPAD compliments my academic learning by pushing me to do research around topics already learnt at university which means I have a much more well-rounded understanding of the work we do at university.
Nottingham Advantage Award
OPAD also has a Nottingham Advantage Award (NAA) associated to it, which means students can get recognition for the work and effort they put in as a member of OPAD.
To participate in the Nottingham Advantage Award you need to do Three modules over your three years at university is it an award for extracurricular activities and will show on the students' transcripts. The modules do not count towards their degree.
To Participate the OPAD NAA module, which is worth one module students have to:
- Be an active member of a group and working actively on the project.
- Have input in posters/presentations of your group's project for internal and external showcase events.
- Submit a reflective piece (minimum of 500 words) about your experience with OPAD.
To find out more click here.
To me, participating in OPAD means a lot more than just ticking off the checklist to achieve the Nottingham Advantage Award. The society/module fills a void in my life where I'm missing out on design, engagement with students outside of my degree in a productive sense and having the ability to support the wider society.
OPAD is also a student society affiliated to the Students' Union. Since its foundation, OPAD always had a student committee working together with staff to make OPAD a success. Becoming an official SU society means students on the committee can get recognition for the work and effort they put in.
Visit the OPAD society Facebook page