Over the summer three recent graduates joined Open Lab for three-month internships. They worked on various projects at the Lab connected with ways in which digital technology can have a positive impact on society.
Lynne spent time at Open Lab working on an app for people who stammer. She recently completed a master’s degree in Information and Library Studies at the University of Strathclyde, and is the vice-chairperson of the Scottish Stammering Network.
“I applied for the Digital Civics internship after it was advertised through my department at University,” she explained. “It looked like an amazing opportunity to get some hands-on experience of research in a working environment.
“Additionally, the idea of thinking about new ways to use technology for civic good appealed to the librarian in me and I loved the creativity that seemed to go hand-in-hand with the research.”
Lynne attended stammering conferences in the US and Manchester to gather views of people who stammer, and what they would like to see from a possible app. She also researched existing technology for people who stammer, and developed her work into an academic paper.
At the end of her internship Lynne said: “During my time at Open Lab, I was able to see all of the different work that can happen simultaneously within an academic research environment and how ideas can come together to form something new. It was great to see how everyone works together to support and learn from one another.”
Jekaterina had a background in design and came to the Lab to work on three projects. One of these was the maker workshops with Janis. These workshops allowed people with disabilities to use maker technologies such as 3D printers to design and produce objects for themselves.
“I had an opportunity to work with physically impaired people, observe how they work with technologies and how they create an object for themselves,” Jekaterina explained. “Usually, disable assistive devices are developed by non-disabled designers.”
Jekaterina also helped Angelika to design a new website for National Ugly Mugs, a network of support for sex workers, and worked with Tom Nappey and a team of Newcastle students who entered iGEM’s annual synthetic biology competition. The team’s project, ‘Culture Shock’, involved combining electrical circuits with biological components, and required the use of Open Lab’s workspaces. Jekaterina helped the team to design and make prototypes and parts for their project.
Jekaterina said: “This project gave me a great understanding how important design is for science nowadays and how interesting it is to work with people from other disciplines.”
Summer 2016 also saw the opening of Open Lab: Athens, and the third intern, Eirini, worked on a website for this.
Eirini headed to Athens after finishing the first year of her Computer Science degree, and explained: “I learnt to work under pressure in an office environment, but more importantly I noticed that although university gives you the tools to learn, these are usually provided in a safe environment and thus limit your understanding of the full scope of what a specific job entails.”
Eirini worked with Vasilis Vlachokyriakos, the leader of the lablet, to set up its website, which involved modifying templates and adapting the website to support the use of the Greek language. She also made the website mobile-friendly by introducing responsive elements to the CSS.
She also translated all of the text on the website, so that it could appear in Greek and English.
Eirini said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the programme (even though I was complaining about the Greek hot summer to Vasilis) and I wish I could have stayed longer.”