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First Una Europa students tackle Covid-19 challenges

Una Europa launched UNA.TEN – “Transform Emergency Now! 10 days for change,” which refers to the ten day cross-European student hackathon that took place from 27 April – 8 May 2020. UNA.TEN brought together 100 students across seven of our partner universities aimed at developing solutions to address real challenges in Covid-19 post-emergency times - based on an open innovation design process.

Groups of approximately five students at master level, who teamed up with local partners, were challenged to look for solutions to four specific challenges:

  1. redefining entertainment and culture,
  2. safeguarding privacy and preventing misconceptions in a digital world,
  3. ensuring traveller safety and
  4. avoiding food waste.

The initiative builds on “OPER.TEN – Transform Emergency Now! 10 giorni per il cambiamento”, a student hackathon organised earlier this year by Università di Bologna, the Una partner first struck by the crisis. Una Europa used UNA.TEN as a pilot to test new methods of challenge-based learning in times of virtual mobility. The participating students were the first Una Europa students to attend a join educational offer from our Alliance, making UNA.TEN a particularly special event.

" The central ambition of Una Europa is to build a 'University of the Future', for the students of the future. With UNA.TEN, we welcome our first Una Europa students to a joint learning experience. "

Emily Palmer, Secretary General, Una Europa

How does the UNA.TEN concept work?

Each challenge was assigned to several local teams at each participating university. The teams then had the opportunity to meet the different Una Europa partners virtually across several instances; For the joint cross-European kick-off, European benchmarking, ideation and final presentations.

KU Leuven, Università di Bologna and Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie joined the competition with four teams each, addressing all four challenges. The three teams of Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne addressed challenge 1, 3 and 4 respectively, while the University of Edinburgh’s teams worked on challenges 1 and 3. The team of Helsingin Yliopisto focused on challenge 3. The team of Universidad Complutense de Madrid, including students from Peru and Ecuador, tackled challenge 1.

" By coupling challenge-based learning for society and virtual mobility, Una Europa will achieve local impact through European collaboration. "

Professor Matteo Vignoli, the UNA.TEN Programme Coordinator

An overview of solutions developed by UNA.TEN

After ten days, the teams came together to virtually present their innovative ideas and solutions.

Redefining entertainment and culture

Team one from Edinburgh, partnered with the Edinburgh Festivals and Fringe and set about to design an immersive experience called EdinGo, which would connect international networks of audiences and performers within virtual but distinctly Edinburgh spaces. The proposed EdinGo platform facilitates exploration of the historic city with the option to access Twitch performer rooms (pre-paid or free-to-access).

The KU Leuven team came up with a solution inspired by the 'drive-in festival' organized by De Morgen and Humo. They came up with a local, ecological variant: the 'bubble festival', in which they aim to organize a series of festivals on a small scale where people in plastic bubbles - known from the entertaining 'bubble soccer' game - enjoy live music while still being together and safe!

Unibo students partnered with the Foundation for Urban Innovation and the Open group to devise Bo! Outside: an area for live events equipped with workstations for the public that guarantee physical distance. All services, including catering, are guaranteed and the project is designed to be economically sustainable for the organisers.

Safeguarding privacy and preventing misconceptions in a digital world

KU Leuven students developed a blueprint for a customisable colour coded browser add-on that notifies users of the potential mis-usages of their digital fingerprint. The add-on would give the user the possibility to set permissions, discover any "data mining" and check through an easy colour code whether the website in question complies with the GDPR legislation. The add-on would also include a platform with videos and information about the digital rights that each user has.

The Unibo team partnered with Open Group and Social Warning and devised up with Noot – a platform capable of involving and informing children young people and adults, giving interactive content and tools that offer an educational experience for younger children and support and information services for parents and relatives.

" My favourite part of the UNA.TEN challenge has been the collaboration. We’ve been allowed to build together COVID responses on a first-class collaborative platform, getting feedback from multiple backgrounds, points of view, and cultural perspectives. "

Carmen Valenzuala Chapeton, Student participant from the team rethinking culture and entertainment from The University of Edinburgh.

Ensuring traveller safety

Team two from Edinburgh, partnered with the University’s Talbot Rice Gallery, and created a social distancing framework with up scalable or de-scalable assets called, Synergy. The team narrowed their focus to social distancing as a key objective to tackle, which inspired Synergy, the analogue or digital social distancing framework universally adaptable to various indoor and outdoor narratives. The system is made up by a Familial pad, Individual pad, Distance pad, Non-stair pad and Synergy pad. Synergy from the start was a concept in which they wanted a fluid framework that could be used by Talbot Rice Gallery along with other museums, galleries, and various social infrastructures around the world. Positive discussion have already taken place surrounding Synergy, with Galleries in Finland being the first to reach out, keen to get a system such as this in place.

The KU Leuven team focused on public transport and commuters. They came up with the “Railway Crowd Tracker”, which could be implemented in a mobility app like the NMBS app. This could inform you about expected busy lines, as well as "real-time" updates about the crowdedness in the different wagons of a train.

Université Paris 1 students came up with “Local’O” – a new way to discover your local area. It’s about finding local activities in a safe environment and helping the local economy. The app displays crowdedness and current safety measures in place.

Unibo students partnered with Bologna Welcome to devise a digital service and app for smartphone called “SafER”, which allows users to organise trips in the countryside – whether they are day trips or longer holidays – without running the risk of finding oneself in too crowded of places.

Avoiding food waste

The Jagiellonian University team devised “Food Network”, a networking site and app for exchanges on large scale food surpluses / shortages, allowing producers to quickly connect with those who could use their surplus.

The KU Leuven team observed that small shops were much more affected by COVID19 than large supermarkets. Therefore, they developed a platform that connects small traders with customers. By adding their favourite merchants and choosing some recipes, the customers can order and get the exact right amounts of ingredients for their meals. Customers in this way could support the smaller shops, keep in touch with them socially through the platform, and waste less food by buying specific amounts.

The Unibo team partnered with Future Food Institute and Vazapp to help small food producers as well. Their solution is to create a digital and paper guide which offers a series of tips on how to promote small food businesses through digital technologies – from the first steps to being found on the internet, to strategies for building communities of customers and harnessing the power of word of mouth.

Building block towards shaping our future in Europe

In total, UNA.TEN attracted more than 100 students who worked in 19 teams across our different partner universities. They managed to jointly tackle European challenges at a local level and provide tailored solutions. Emily Palmer, Secretary General of Una Europa, warmly thanked the students for their commitment and enthusiasm saying, “This is your building block towards shaping Europe of the third millennium, which is also a key priority for Una Europa.”

Story by Fiona Murray, The University of Edinburgh