Seniors Help Students Create New Age-Friendly Technologies

BY MAJA GAWRONSKA, MA

“Our product was inspired by seniors from La Costa Glen community, UC San Diego retirees, family, and friends,” said Gulmira Mustapaeva, a UC San Diego student and a member of Team KiWi.

The five young UC San Diego engineering students on Team KiWi designed the Smart Walker, a device that uses sensors to warn walking seniors (with a voice, light, or vibration) of a possible trip hazard. It is programmed to scan the path ahead and alert you to any fall risks that need your attention.

For the second year in a row, senior living residents have partnered with UC San Diego students as advisers for the Design Competition Showcase at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, sponsored by the Center for Healthy Aging.

The competition, held in June, featured ten teams of undergraduate students working on such projects as an online scheduling system, foldable shopping cart, and smartSole, a programmed insole that can be inserted into any shoe to measure the walker’s stride, speed, roll, and other foot motions to prevent falls.

Team KiWi won the $4,000 top prize. “Our device empowers older adults to walk with confidence and continue to maintain an active lifestyle,” said Mustapaeva.

The design process involved a lot of interaction with older adults and also therapists, trainers, researchers, and doctors.

“Everyone was enthusiastic about our product idea. There was wide variation among their choice of alert. Almost everyone liked the vibration alert because it works discretely and does not interfere with the surrounding noises,” added Mustapaeva.

The device uses a camera and ultrasonic sensors to increase detection accuracy. The microcontroller resolves conflicting data from the multiple sensors.

Team KiWi is examining how to improve the prototype and produce a final product.

Team KiWi members were Geeta Asuri, Maya Azarova, Mustapaeva, Kien Nguyen, and Devon Stanfield.