A picture of Product Design and Technology students at UL
Third-year Product Design and Technology students Carlita Bowden and Úna Ní Choileain with the medicine travel case and containers that they made for their Fix Partner
Thursday, October 26, 2023

University of Limerick students are putting their design ideas to the test as ‘fixperts’ to help those in the community who struggle to carry out everyday tasks.

Product Design and Technology students have taken the ‘Fixperts’ challenge, a design education project that uses creative problem solving to fix a problem for a member of their community.

The idea is that a ‘Fix Team’ made of third year Product Design and Technology students work with members of the community who struggle to carry out everyday tasks, known as the ‘Fix Partner’.

The students must design a simple, inventive, and low-cost solution for their Fix Partner that is customised to the individual's needs.

This year’s fixes solve everything from helping a woman with rheumatoid arthritis with her crocheting, to protecting an athlete’s hands as he competes in wheelchair basketball games.

Commenting on the initiative Dr Muireann McMahon, lecturer in Product Design and Technology, School of Design, Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: “A lot of the time designers create products for much larger user groups, but with Fixperts the students design, develop and build a solution that works for a real person.

“There is a real sense of satisfaction and pride when the Fix is handed over to the Fix Partner and it succeeds in helping them do tasks others can take for granted.”

One of the student Fix Teams, Carlita Bowen and Úna Ní Choileáin, created a fashionable medicine travel case and containers for Karen who suffers from joint and muscle pain.

They noticed that Karen kept her medication in a zip-lock bag and that taking medication was a long and painful process due to swelling in her hands. The case consisted of 14 easy-open containers which were intrinsically designed for Karen’s needs.

“We chose Karen because she has a multitude of difficulties due to her illness. We wanted to try to improve even one part of her day, while also allowing her to feel normal when performing daily tasks,” Úna said.

“We were really excited to work with Karen for this project as she is a positive and uplifting character. One of the most rewarding parts of the project was the chance to improve Karen’s quality of life and seeing the smile on her face when we gave her the Fixperts travel case,” Carlita added.

Fixperts is part of an international programme, and the best projects from University of Limerick will go forward to take part in a global competition.

In 2021, UL’s School of Design had international success when students Colin Coughlan and Jordan Schmidt were invited to add their project to a permanent Fixperts Exhibition in Paris. Their Fix solved the problem of tying laces for a Fix Partner with Dyspraxia.