Providing students with valuable experience on music therapy project

Published on: 12th July 2018

At DCA, even our 8-week summer placement students are given the opportunity to make a real and tangible impact on people’s lives from the get go. The multidisciplinary nature of DCA demands real-time communication between the different specialisms involved the design and development of products, something that students will usually not get exposed to at university. We allow our students to experience this way of working by setting them challenging projects that provide a useful and realistic insight into the design process and allow them to work with other students from different disciplines to create something meaningful during their placement.

For example, last year’s summer student project set out to tackle the challenge of improving the quality of life for our aging population. By the end of the 6-week project period, the student team had independently developed a fully-functioning prototype which was trialled by the residents of a local care home, Leycester House.

To provide a commercial focus for the project, the student team, consisting of mechanical, electrical and software engineers and an industrial designer, was given a brief, a budget and a deadline. The students were given complete independence and freedom to innovate, although support was available throughout from experienced DCA mentors. They also had access to DCA’s extensive workshop and prototyping facilities. Over a period of six weeks, the team followed their own structured design process from research and ideation through conceptual design to creating rigs to test their proposed solutions and finally the detailed design and production of working prototypes.

Multiple concepts were considered in the initial brainstorming phase, with the team settling on a solution that connected with dementia sufferers. Through research, the team realised that the solution should facilitate a connection with others; provide a sense of achievement; and aim trigger memories from the users’ past experiences. The medium of music was discovered to be a powerful means of connecting with dementia sufferers and this became the focal point for the leading concept: a simple rhythm game requiring the user to press a button in time to the beat in a playing song.

The team were then able to take this concept and bring it to life. The mechanical engineering and industrial design teams defined the product casework and user interface (UI) mechanisms in a form that was mass producible and delivered an aesthetic that conveyed the desired look and feel for the target market. The electronic and software teams coordinated to create the internal circuitry and UI, converting the complex rhythm of a song into a simpler stimulus that users could respond to within the game. These work streams ran in parallel with constant communications and interactions, and combined to create a working prototype that could be handled and tested by residents at the care home.