Innovation team wins a Ford Mach E (for a weekend) at Loughborough London’s Induction Innovation sprint

Loughborough University London was ablaze with creativity for its first accessibility Hackathon (hack) of the new term.

The term Hackathon was originally used by computer programmers to describe a group of programmers working together over a short time frame to solve a technical problem. Future Space Hackathons are similar in that they involve students coming together in teams to build solutions to real world issues. The hacks are driven by global challenges and our desire to create better futures.

Teaming up with Ford UK, the Global Disability Innovation Hub and Disability Rights UK, student teams were challenged to find accessible solutions to last mile transport.

The teams had just a few hours to develop their ideas in response to this challenge. Helping them to do this was a panel of disabled people facing these challenges themselves as well as experts interested in discovering new solutions in how to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’.

Student ideas ranged from intelligent mapping apps to help buttons at transport hubs and buddying systems. The winning team’s solution was a novel powered wheel that can adapt to any user’s impairment to provide safe and convenient travel for all.

The winning team received £1,000 from Loughborough University London and the free loan of a Ford Mach E electric car for a weekend.

Mark Deane, a student on the winning team said: “Winning the hack was an amazing start to student life here at Loughborough University London. I really loved the challenge of collaborating with people from different backgrounds and different expertise. It was cool to generate ideas that could really change the world - bring on the next one!

The hackathon was driven by a challenge posed by Disability Rights UK (DRUK), Ford and the Global Disability Innovation Hub. Disability Rights UK works to influence regional and national change for better rights, benefits, quality of life and economic opportunities for disabled people. It brought together a panel of people who face challenges with last mile transport when commuting, socialising or just getting around our cities.

One of the people on the panel was Dr Kay Inckle, Campaigns and Policy manager for Wheels for Wellbeing who campaign for and provide access to cycling for disabled people.

Kay, who is herself a handcyclist, said, “These accessibility hacks are really important for highlighting the barriers that disabled people face in the built environment whatever form of transport they use and how some creative thinking can transform mobility. It was great to see the students really engaging with the issues and developing some innovative solutions.

David Skipp, Director for Autonomous Vehicle and Mobility Strategy at Ford added: “Ford is committed to driving forward new solutions to transport challenges. Last mile mobility is a real-world challenge, not just for Ford but for governments, urban planners and society as a whole. Being part of Loughborough University London’s hack opened an opportunity to hear new ideas from a set of talented students. It was such an enjoyable day and a pleasure to hear such a diverse range of solutions in such a short time.

The hack was hosted by the Future Space team as part of its comprehensive induction activities kicking off the new term, providing students with the opportunity to test their teamwork skills and develop solutions to real-life problems.

Hayley Jones, Student Enterprise Adviser at Loughborough University London, said: “With our Future Space and Loughborough Enterprise Network activities, we really like to build on our student experience through real world challenges. Our hacks are a great way for our students to throw themselves into what it is like to study with us in London. For the teams to have achieved what they have in one day is really amazing.

Future Space will be running further hacks throughout the year. If you would like to get involved, please see our website or contact for more information.