Students take over Snow Centre as part of sports innovation challenge

Paralympics GB skier Millie Knight discusses the benefits of the project 'Glimpse' for visually impaired skiers at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead
Paralympics GB skier Millie Knight discusses the benefits of the project 'Glimpse' for visually impaired skiers at The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead
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A group of college students took over The Snow Centre to showcase products they worked on as part of a challenge that aims to develop equipment for Paralympic athletes.

The students from Imperial College, London took over the centre in Hemel Hempstead to show prototypes they made as part of the Rio Tinto Sports Innovation Challenge (RTSIC).

Inspired by the legacy of London 2012 and this year’s Winter Olympics in Russia, the students created projects that provide solutions to real-life engineering problems, while also developing equipment for para-athletes to use in training and competition.

The students have spent 10 months working on the projects with support from Disability SnowSports UK (DSUK), who provided advice and answered questions from the perspective of adaptive skiers.

Among the projects students worked on was the Glimpse, a helmet that gives independence to both skiers and snowboarders by allowing them to gauge their positions relative to their accompanying guides.

ParalympicsGB skier Millie Knight, who acted as flagbearer for Great Britain at the opening ceremony of this year’s Winter Paralympics said: “Having a helmet that helps you determine where objects are and where your guide is is such an incredible idea.

“I’ve had the chance to test out the Glimpse and was amazed at how intuitive it is.

“I can see how it’d be even more beneficial for people who are completely blind.”

Also on display were projects that have been created to aid sit-skiers.

The first the Gnar, enables mono-skiers, who compete on just a single ski, to push themselves up unassisted after a fall, and Mimic, an adaptive visual learning system designed to aid novice sit-skiers during lessons.

Prototypes that span a range of disciplines across disability sport were also on display, including Spine, a back support system that prevents the worsening of spinal injuries following a crash, and Bruise, a revolutionary injury detection suit for sports people with paraplegia.

Dr Ian Radcliffe, project leader of RTSIC at Imperial College, London, said: “The exhibition to the DSUK team is an important part of the design and development process.

“The feedback the students have been getting from everyone will be instrumental in focusing and guiding the ongoing development of these concepts.”

James Sterry, DSUK coach for Hemel Hempstead said: “The Rio Tinto Sports Innovation Challenge is a really great initiative and there are a number of projects that would really benefit the way we teach adaptive snowsports.

“The equipment we have now works well but there’s always need for improvement and for new innovations.”