Much to learn from our differences
‘It is very different here from Brazil, but different perspectives on the same problem taught us a lot,’ say Josieli and Sara.
Josieli (Josi) Boiani and Sara Martins from São Paulo State University have been exchange students this autumn at the Department of Product Design and the Department of Computer Science at HiOA.
They are both master’s degree students, Josieli in design and Sara in ergonomics. They participated in the SIU UTFORSK Partnership Programme, under which HiOA was awarded funding for a collaboration with the Brazilian university.
Josieli and Sara are the first students to take part in this partnership as exchange students.
Useful and enjoyable
Just before leaving Oslo, they concluded that it has been a very useful and enjoyable stay.
They are both working on developing devices for disabled persons in their studies; ergonomic wheelchairs, walkers for the elderly and a new type of spoon for children with disabilities.
‘Here, we can see other types of devices than in Brazil, for example rollators, and this is important in our studies,’ Josi can tell us.
In Norway, they have extended their network and got to know different professionals who they can contact when they are back in Brazil.
At the Department of Product Design, they have taken part in a project that is designing an angle spoon for people with disabilities. This is a tool for children and elderly people that makes it much easier for them to eat.
They want to continue to improve the project when they are back in Brazil, which is important as it is especially designed for children.
Two professors at the department, Einar Stoltenberg and Astrid Heimer, have followed up their projects. They have also cooperated with PhD Candidate Nenad Pavel, PhD Candidate Vibeke Sjøvoll, and Arild Berg, now Vice Dean for R&D.
Walker and wheelchair stigmas
‘At the Department of Computer Science, we have also tried out models for walkers and wheelchairs among non-users, to find out what impression these devices have on them. If you are not a wheelchair or walker user, we ask what your impression of this product is. Do you like it, or do you find it ugly or beautiful?’, says Sara.
A large percentage of the world's population need some form of assistive technology products to improve their functionality.
Despite the support offered by these devices, most users abandon them for several reasons, including the stigmas attached to the devices. For this reason, the study seeks to ascertain whether there are stigmas related to assistive technology devices such as wheelchairs and walkers.
The academic supervisor at the Department of Computer Science was Frode Eika Sandnes who, together with Senior Adviser Brit Balgaard, also provided the students with non-academic support.
Improving their CVs
‘I think our main objective is to improve our CV, and we have learned a lot about writing academic projects, and how to design projects. It has been a very good experience. We have also made new friends, and got to know another culture. It has been a challenge every day, because we tried something new. It is very different from Brazil,’ Sara and Josi emphasizes.
The fact that it is different means you have learned from it?
‘Yes, we have seen different perspectives on the same problem. We can see that it is more accessible here,’ they reply.
They feel that the partnership works very well for occupational therapists and designers, such as themselves.
Professor Frode Eika Sandnes also believes that the SIU UTFORSK project strengthens interdisciplinary collaboration.
‘We are working towards the same goal, but cultural differences mean that we apply different approaches,’ he says.
‘We have a lot to learn from each other, and it is healthy for us to have new perceptions on how we do things in Norwegian society. Many of our colleagues at the Faculty of Technology, Art and Design at
HiOA are preaching the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration, which is why we also decided to try it,’ he says.
‘It has been very refreshing to have these two Brazilian students at our faculty,’ concludes Frode Eika Sandnes.
The students left Oslo on 7 December, and will complete their master’s degrees in Brazil in February. They will write a report about the stay, and both would recommend exchanges at HiOA to other students.
One possible drawback is that it is cold in Norway, but with the right clothes and footwear, it is fully possible to live here.
‘In Norway, we also had to speak English every day. It was a challenge, even though English is spoken very clearly here. It has been easier to read English than to speak it correctly,’ they explain.
They also felt that the professors at HiOA provided very good follow-up during their stay.
What do you think of Oslo?
‘Oslo is a beautiful city, and you do not have chaotic situations like in São Paulo. It is a safe city, which is important for us. We do not feel afraid to walk around here. In Brazil, we have more problems with that, says Josi.
Do you have any plans to come back to Norway?
‘Maybe for a PhD, if it is possible!’, they both answer.
The strategic goal of the UTFORSK project is to solve the great challenge of independent living for the aging population by combining inclusive design thinking, engineering and knowledge of the health sciences.