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Team Motus win IMechE Apprentice Automation Challenge


An invention that increases the safety of older people and those living with a disability has won Leonardo’s Team Motus the IMechE’s Apprentice Automation Challenge.

Motus Product: Lewis Jones – left and Aaron Wills – Right in the lab with their product

The Apprentice Automation Challenge offers apprentices an opportunity to design and build a device to automate a process in the home or garden that addresses key challenges in today’s society.

Engineering careers at Leonardo have many routes but one destination

Team Motus were aware of the increased number of vulnerable people who are living alone in lockdown conditions brought on by COVID-19. The team of Leonardo apprentices conducted extensive research into the existing market of motion sensor lights and found that there was the potential to make create a more user-friendly option.

The team’s solution has been adapted to focus on the safety aspect of night lighting. The LED motion sensor light can be strategically positioned at points around the home to maximise safety, automatically switching on when it senses motion. The team created a potential service, which could offer individuals tailored positioning plans for their LED sensor lights, embedded within a home’s floor plan, to create safe walking routes around the home at night. They also identified the potential to innovate smart watch technology, which could be linked to the sensors.

Competition winning Motus device

Over the course of their research, the team came across NHS stats showing that around a third of adults over 65 who live at home will have at least one fall a year, and about half of these will have more frequent falls. Concerns about falling could cause a person to lose confidence, become withdrawn, and feel as if they have lost their independence.

A safe network of motion sensor lights could give confidence to those living alone, so they are not worried about falling when they have to get up at night. The team worked to make their product as reliable as possible, replacing the usual sticky surface used with the light with a magnetic strip to offer long-term stability. While existing lights on the market are often bulky, the team fitted the motion sensor LED lights into discreet strips, which can be installed in the home and even colour coordinated to blend into their environment.

The Motus device addresses night lighting

The team comprised a mix of Technical and Business apprentices with some members based at Leonardo’s Luton site at Capability Green while others were working remotely at home. They soon began to exchange expertise, with Technical apprentices advising on coding and the construction of the prototype, while the Business Apprentices conducted research and built a business case informed by market information.

Rob Armstrong, Head of Manufacturing Process Capability at Leonardo said: ““The team has done brilliantly to overcome the challenges that remote working has brought about this year, adapting their ways of working, staying connected and collaborating to design a fantastic product. They should be very proud of what they have achieved, and I hope the experience will help them in their future careers with Leonardo.”

As part of their prize, Team Motus will receive £2,000 and will go on to exhibit their winning entry as part of the Smart Factory Expo and attend the TMMX Awards in 2021.



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