FIKALAB Challenging Creativity in Technology
Every year, we challenge ISEC students to develop innovative projects. And no matter what, they always surpass all our expectations. Take a look!
Aside from life, death and taxes, there is one other certainty in today’s world: that technology marches on. Technological advances have become an essential and integral part of our lives. To understand why, all we need to do is look around us and realise that, in every moment and context, we are immersed in it. Whether we are at work or at play, technology is always there to make our lives both simple and more efficient.
Each year, FIKALAB - our innovation lab - challenges the community of Coimbra’s Engineering School, ISEC, to come up with ground-breaking projects. Participants have the opportunity to dust off supposedly pie-in-the-sky ideas and make them a reality, providing them with all the resources, guidance and tools they need.
How inventive can they get, we hear you ask?
Well, let’s take a look at some of previous editions’ projects…
Wallace Oliveira and Joana Barata were discussing the natural disasters in Indonesia and the resultant rescue operations when it came to them that drones can be useful in helping with tasks such as combing through building wreckage. However, using drones isn’t without difficulty; for example, GPS signal failure is commonplace in areas where the signal would no doubt be subject to major interference.
Their initial idea was to use the various sensors available to enable navigation in GPS-free areas, through which the drone would "explore" in order to find an exit from the area. The sensors could also be used to prevent the drone from crashing against objects around it while analysing the area. Due to time constraints, the scope of the project decreased to returning the drone to the last location with GPS signal, and from there to base when it enters an area without signal.
To achieve this, they leveraged technologies such as ArduPilot, DroneKit, Python, C/C++, Bash, Linux and Virtualization.
João Conceição’s idea arose from a curiosity to apply IoT technologies in various contexts, with the aim of creating alternative solutions to some common issues faced within the home. To create this smart home system, João used LoRa, a low-power wide-area network protocol, as the means of communication. Using this LoRaWAN, he faced several challenges including identifying features that he would be able to implement given the technology constraints of the project.
João’s next steps for this project include incorporating additional features and possibly developing an Android application.
Ana Alves, Pedro Alves, Carlos Couceiro and Luís Freitas all contributed towards the creation of a device used to react to and control forest fires. The device incorporated a microcontroller, connected to temperature and humidity sensors, volatile gases and ultraviolet, with a connection to a solar panel and a battery. They also developed a website enabling visitors to view a real-time map of fires occurring within the last 24 hours as well as the location of installed devices. The website can also send notifications by email when a fire is detected, including the relevant sensor data.
The team’s goal is now to complement the device with new features, such as adding SMS capabilities in instances of fire, so the population of the surrounding area can evacuate to a safe place in good time. The team are also keen to install sensors in strategic locations, creating clusters, and using the information collected to predict fires through machine learning/AI. The SensingForest team took home the first prize of the FIKALAB ISEC Challenge 2020.
Giving wings to imagination
Initiatives like the FIKALAB ISEC Challenge aim to foster creativity and curiosity. By offering all the required resources and know-how, the challenge enables participants to get as close as possible to experiencing real-life project development scenarios. FIKALAB is ultimately the vehicle through which amazing, sometimes outlandish, ideas can come to life, while allowing participants to learn new and invaluable skills. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime – and definitely not one to miss!