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Tackling teachers’ workload with a game

Impact Course Final

MAASTRICHT. Who is your research interesting for, and why? This is the question that the researchers participating in the first Maastricht University Impact Course have tried to answer in recent months. Last Tuesday five of them presented their proposals for making a bigger impact with their research to a jury at the Brandweer Kantine, in the hopes of winning the 1000 euro prize.

The aim of the Impact Course, launched last May, is to familiarise researchers with the opportunities presented by knowledge utilisation and the many ways in which Maastricht University can help them to increase the societal impact of their research. The participants discussed several topics – how to improve your pitch, collaborate with external partners, communicate your work to a broad audience – and took part in workshops. The presentation on Tuesday was the last session, but Ivo George of the UM Knowledge Transfer Office, who organised the Impact Course, hopes the researchers will continue creating an impact.

First prize of 1000 euros went to Rico Möckel, assistant professor of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the Department of Data Science and Knowledge Engineering. He wants to develop a device that can test the cognitive and physical capabilities of children and elderly people. When they use the device (its specific form has yet to be developed), it will register things like whether their hands are shaking and how long it takes them to complete certain tasks. The device will then automatically record the results, saving time for teachers and caregivers, who currently have to perform and document these kinds of tests manually. Möckel was praised by the jury for getting on board many different stakeholders (educational boards, care institutions and researchers from other departments) and having a clear action plan.

Second prize (500 euros) went to Joost Lumens, assistant professor of Biomedical Technology, who plans to create a virtual fingerprint of the damaged heart. “Just as the earth has fault lines – where the risks of an earthquake are higher – the heart can have lines where there is tissue damage.” Patients rarely have symptoms until it is too late, resulting in 17,000 deaths per year in the Netherlands. “If it’s discovered in time, the patient can be given an implant, but that’s a very invasive and expensive procedure. So you want to be absolutely sure they need it." This is where Lumens’s model of the heart comes in. “You could enter the patient’s data from their echo and create a virtual model of their heart, so a cardiologist can see where and how bad the damage is. Eventually you’ll be able to try out the treatment on the model.”

Lastly, philosopher Darian Meacham received the third prize of 250 euros. He wants to contribute to the debate on the ethics and politics of emerging technologies. “New technologies raise serious ethical questions. There are many short- and long-term consequences and it’s really difficult to understand and navigate that maze.” He wants to get involved in the debate, draw attention to the issue and, in the long term, establish a Centre for Ethics and Politics of Emerging Technologies.

The Knowledge Transfer Office and Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus will support these researchers with the further development of these initiatives.

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