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University's bright sparks win £10,000 between them for creative thinking

21 July 2010

A GBP10,000 prize is being awarded to three creative students who have dreamt up ideas to help mankind, including a computer application that enables disabled children to play guitar using only eye movements, and a concept for underwater homes. De Montfort University (DMU) is awarding the annual Creative Thinking Awards at its Institute of Creative Technologies (IOCT) this evening (Wednesday, 21 July) to highlight the wealth of imaginative innovation among students and graduates. The Awards have been created and sponsored by Toby Moores, who is a consultant in commercial creativity and runs the highly successful TV and games company Sleepydog.

The £10,000 prize will be split between two of DMU’s newest graduates and a part-time postgraduate student, all of whom live in Leicester.

The first place prize of £5,000 goes to Leicestershire artist Pamela Boardman whose winning idea explores the possibility of developing underwater homes which could help cope with the land loss caused by climate change. She will now develop the idea in a Phd.

Second prize of £3,000 goes to Matthew Smalley, who this week graduates BSc (Hons) Computer Science, and has developed a computer application that allows disabled children play a mainstream guitar video game using only eye movements.

Third prize of £2,000 is being awarded to Phd student Sarah Greenfield for a mathematical approach she has devised which will enable developers to significantly improve performance in many applications such as medical diagnosis and robot control.
Pamela, 37, who graduates a Masters degree in Design Innovation from DMU this week, has researched how underwater or floating homes could provide self-sufficiency and sustainability to reduce land-based population and increase land available for agricultural use. Her research focused on the physiological and psychological needs of occupants of underwater homes and how design could help combat the stresses of living in such confined environment. Pamela said:

“The passion behind this project comes from my belief that designers and creative thinkers have the ability to repair and restore the damage that past generations have done to the planet. Entering the age of sustainability with a multi-disciplined approach to thinking and design could provide the key to the continuation of all life on the planet and today’s rapidly expanding technology means self-sufficiency in an ocean environment is now becoming feasible.

“Receiving the award is a huge honour and endorses the concept that creative thinking can help solve many problems faced by the world today. The prize money will help the project move forward into a more conceptual stage within a Phd. If this project were to become a reality, the strain on the earth through growing population and land loss would be greatly reduced and would enable bio-diversity to recover.”
Matthew, 26, wrote his dissertation on the EyeGuitar, a computer application which allows the user to play an existing guitar simulator video game solely using eye movement. It was designed to enable children with severe disabilities to be able to play a mainstream video game completely independently of their carers. Matthew said:

“An important element of the design of EyeGuitar is that the game that it interacts with does not recognise that it is being controlled by an external application. In theory, this means the application could work with many other similar games without modification and further empower people who wouldn’t normally play video games to have just the same fun. I’m a real video games fan so it’s great to be able to come up with something like this which could help less able people get the same enjoyment. It was also really exciting to discover during trials that users of EyeGuitar were often able to score more highly in a game than people using the traditional keyboard method.”
Sarah, 53, has had her mathematics application called the Greenfield-Chiclana Collapsing Defuzzifier (GCCD) – published in a prestigious international academic journal as well as being awarded third place in the Creative Thinking Awards. The GCCD is a computer algorithm – a piece of mathematics and its proof – used in the field of fuzzy logic which is a computational intelligence.

“I am delighted to receive this award as commendation of my work on the Collapsing Defuzzifier. Mathematics as a form of creativity is often overlooked but this gives recognition to mathematics as a creative discipline. When I was working on the GCCD, my experience was very much of a creative process; inspiration and imagination played a large part in my envisioning the idea,” said Sarah.
Toby Moores said: “Thinking creatively is an increasingly important skill in the UK job market. Creativity is a skill we take for granted, even though as a nation we have a strong heritage in innovation. De Montfort University has established a track record in encouraging creativity among its students. I hope the award will further raise the profile of its unique environment in nurturing creative talent. The winning entries are of exceptionally high quality and demonstrate the University’s status as one of the country’s leading centres of innovation.”

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