CERN Accelerating science

IdeaSquare Inspires 2017 CBI

It’s Day 3 of the CBI Mediterranean Bootcamp. Three Barcelona based universities of varying disciplines have come together to tackle some of the most challenging and relevant issues facing our rapidly evolving world. UPC, ESADE, and IED Barcelona mix engineering, business, and design talent respectively to create dynamically skilled teams allowing for compelling ideas and collaboration. Here at IdeaSquare, a CERN facility promoting synergies between society and scientific community, the students have put their minds together to brainstorm the first phases of research in their three month journey that lies ahead. At the facility, the teams were introduced to cutting edge technologies developed by CERN physicists and researchers, searching for potential partnership in applying the technology to future prototypes. From touring the advanced physics facility to receiving private seminars from world class researchers, the CBI students have worked together in this beginning phase of their challenge to identify in which context they seek to design and create.


5 Teams, 5 Challenges

Women empowerment in STEM fields within developing countries, radiation detection, emergency sanitation crisis response, and analogue and digital knowledge transfer name a few topics that fall in line with some of the most recent talks coming from top innovation hubs across the globe as prominent concerns to be tackled in the coming years.


Three students from IED Barcelona’s Masters course in Design Management (M. Albrand, M. Vigo, R. Villalobos) have hosted the CBI students at IdeaSquare by facilitating an inspiring and participatory co creation session with the goal to expand the students horizons and paths of future investigation.


The workshop intends to communicate that before the teams can

design, they need to understand for whom they want to design for and in what context those users are operating.

- Mathieu Albrand


By breaking down comfort in current and familiar contexts, the session pushed the students to another state of mind in which they were able to explore imaginary opportunities on a foreign planet.


The collaboration of multidisciplinary teams and CERN physicists and researchers created the perfect climate for stimulating engagement and unique, out of the box thinking.


What Does an Effective Co Creation Look Like Pre-User Research?

After talks from distinguished researchers and physicists shedding light on parallel universes, time travel, and dark matter to name a few, the co creation needed to encompass the curiosity around stuff of the future, but remain abstract and open enough not to drown the students in technicalities and the complexities of never ending formulas.


We took a trip through a time machine and ended up on an unfamiliar planet.

Divided into 5 continents, 1 for each team, the planet was hostile in nature but a unique context to the students. Inhabitants lived in underwater cities, or underground tunnel systems to avoid external radiation exposure. Some lived in dystopian cities with access to complex technologies but no knowledge of use and operation. Population control, air quality, hostile climate, antibiotic resistant viruses and over reliance on autonomous technologies were just a few of the prompts given to allow the teams to construct the context of their new homes. They were encouraged to think about how every new challenge could be turned into newfound opportunity. Beyond physical features striking the new environment, each continent also comprised of unfamiliar social construction and cultural norms, making the students rethink practical solutions that could possibly be implemented in the present context we are familiar with. In order to understand the real challenge the teams needed to empathize with the type of people living on the continent - an interesting exercise of brainstorming users and emphasizing with these fictional beings. The teams were able to dig beyond the challenges we presented them and found deeper rooted problems within the societal systems, drawing insight on operations and management that could have lead to these continent challenges. In a collaborative process of brainstorming, writing, and drawing, each continent diverged into the two most relevant challenges facing their continents. From there we brought out the glue guns, box cutters, wires and cardboard, and let the students get to work. After a prototyping session lasting around 40 minutes, the room hosted an intercontinental assembly to present global findings.  What we saw were complex volcano cities thriving off thermal energies, modular home units on underground / aboveground exposure cycles, and hyper relocation of power sources to enforce decentralized restriction of energy. Our alien planet was mobile, reactive, and self sustaining. More important than what the students ideated was the process they went through of diverging to contexts that weren’t earth’s, at least not on the surface. Once we traveled back in the time machine we had a debrief of how our alien planet was not so different from some situations countries are facing today. The goal was to make the students think about those groups of people they hadn’t thought of before. In the following three months the teams will continue their journey of research and ideation until they will return to IdeaSquare at CERN with early stage prototypes based off their challenges.