'Made in Brunel', a showcase of creativity from Brunel University undergraduate designers, engineers and innovators was held at the OXO Tower's Barge House on the 13th of June. Amongst the exhibits featured was 'Empower Shower' a project originally conceived by Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) Research Fellow Dr Sara Da Silva Ramos and Former Director of Clinical Services Professor Michael Oddy. 'Empower Shower' was brought to life by Brunel University Student Rebecca Hodge. Dr Da Silva Ramos attended the event to see the culmination of the project.
Turning back the clock over two years to January 2012; Dr Da Silva Ramos and Professor Oddy attended the previous 'Made in Brunel' exhibition and were approached by Project Manager Paula Neal, who informed them of BIRT's eligibility to submit major project proposals for design students at Brunel University. The brief submitted by Dr Da Silva Ramos and Professor Oddy on behalf of BIRT was 'Empower Shower: Applying the use of assistive technology in the shower to promote independence in the morning routine for people with acquired brain injury'.
Rebecca found the project brief fulfilled all her criteria for her final year project and requested to work on the assignment. Working in close collaboration with Jane Wilmot, Senior Occupational Therapist at Thomas Edward Mitton House (TEM) and individuals with brain injury from the Milton Keynes service, Rebecca was able to research which prompts were required in order to shower. Using a microphone to hear the prompts the therapists used when assisting the service users, Rebecca was able to develop a plan.
It was apparent from Rebecca's research that each person had different requirements. Her main challenge was how to create an automated shower prompt which would be suitable for everyone who used it. Rebecca held a focus group in order to get feedback on her prototype design. Tactility, size, shape, contrast, colour, layout and prompt messages were all areas that needing addressing.
With the assistance of engineers from Mira Showers a final digital model was created and taken to TEM House for review. Staff at the service and individuals with brain injury who reviewed the shower thought it would be very helpful, liking the simplicity of the design.
Pleased with the outcome Rebecca said: 'I would like to return to the project in the future and continue to develop it into a practical usable device. There is still so much more that can be achieved'.
Sara Da Silva Ramos added: 'I'm very pleased that Rebecca could work with us on this project and impressed with the way she incorporated all the different requirements in her final design'.