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Victoria Education Centre develop award-winning technology

Victoria Education Centre, Livability’s special needs school in Poole, has been awarded a Times Higher Education Award for pioneering new technology which allows students to design and print 3D objects using only their eyes.

The Sculpture for Health-care: Interaction and Virtual Art in 3D, also known as SHIVA, is a 3D design and printing project which allows disabled people to design an object or sculpture in 3D, which is then printed as a 3D model.

SHIVA was designed by a team of people including Victoria’s Assistive Technologist Mark Mosely who was the technical lead for the project. He created the user interface designs which were later implemented by Bournemouth University.

Sarah Gilling, Head of Speech and Language Therapy at Victoria, defined how the software would be used and what aspects of therapy it could be linked to.

Bournemouth University’s Dr Leigh McLoughlin and Professor Alexander Pasko from the National Centre for Computer Animation took on the task of creating the computer program that is used to design the sculptures and objects. They were also assisted by researchers from the University of Lille.

Developing new technology

There has been a recent global push to adapt new technologies to assist disabled people, which has involved mobile phones, exoskeletons and now art and design.

The technology allows a variety of disabled people to engage in creative design projects in ways which they may not previously have been able to. It directly addresses the barriers disabled people face to art and ideas and provides a new passage for creation and design.

The success and impact that the project made has now been recognised by achieving the Times Higher Education Award for Outsanding Digital Innovation in Teaching or Research.

Using SHIVA at Victoria

The technology was tested at Victoria and is now being used by the students. Sarah Gilling, Head of Speech and Language Therapy, said:

‘Many students at our school are limited in what they can achieve in creative art and self expression by their physical ability. This project allowed us to offer students a whole new dimension in design and modelling. We were able to buy equipment such as multi-touch screens, switches for access, Eye Gaze technology and a 3D printer, and to involve students in the testing and assessment of the software.

‘Asking them for their opinions and feedback was so valuable in raising self esteem, as well as enabling them to contribute to the developments. The project enabled students who would otherwise have had no experience of manipulating 3D shapes, a virtual and real experience of geometric shapes and designs, to learn about sequencing, properties of shapes, language associated with shapes, and a level of independent creativity. The project enabled students to experience the creation of sculptures, and to enjoy the tangible results of their work.

‘Being a partner in the SHIVA project had an impact across the whole school. Teachers and therapists were inspired to use the technology together and a wide variety of students of all ages and abilities benefitted form the results.’

Watch Mark and Alexander talk about how the technology works:

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