Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): Technologies developed by UC students go out into the world

PaperLux is an optical device that is capable of transforming screens into interactive whiteboards at a very low cost, becoming a great solution for education. Palpa teaches women to self-examine to detect possible breast cancer in a timely manner, and Reflush allows gray water to be reused and filtered to face drought.

When they left the Maipú National Lyceum , Luciano Lizana and Álvaro Donoso never imagined that the paths of life would bring them together again. Luciano, who was studying at the Catholic University’s School of Architecture, says that he was looking for someone who could help him with programming and electrical circuits for the development of a technology that would facilitate learning in the classroom. It was then that a friend reminded him that his former classmate was studying Electrical Civil Engineering at UC, and that he could help him.

Both met again and a few weeks ago they presented the technology they created collaboratively at the eMerge Americas fair in Miami.

This is PaperLux Studio , which through a device transforms any screen, such as a home television or a computer, into a touch screen with a pencil. The operation is very simple and works through a sensor that is connected through a USB port. All at a competitive price: only 79 thousand pesos (about US$93), a value that contrasts with the nearly 2.5 million pesos that similar technologies can be worth in the market.

“Our main focus is how we can democratize access to digital tools in schools,” explains Luciano. Aware of the gaps that exist in Chilean schools and that often the most sophisticated technologies reach only the campuses with the most resources, they decided to study how they could create, through ingenuity and simpler techniques, tools that could be equally powerful .

“Our main focus is how we can democratize access to digital tools in schools” – Luciano Lizana, promoter of PaperLux

“We have set out to be as low tech as possible and return to the oldest methods, but for the device to work effectively, to be resolved with few basic components. In short, offering a lot for very little,” says Álvaro Donoso.

Initially, Luciano Lizana started with the creation of PaperLux Go, it is another device that through optics allows to transform any cell phone into a tablet and that has a cost close to 20 thousand pesos (24 dollars). The development of this solution began in an innovation certificate course at UC, in Bootcamp format, which was taught by academics Sebastián Negrete and Paula Wuth. Later they were winners of the Jump Chile contest of the UC Innovation Center , which seeks to promote entrepreneurship among higher education students.

Through the Hemispheric University Consortium network , which integrates the UC along with 13 other universities in the continent, they were able to participate a few days ago with a stand at the eMerge Americas fair, one of the most important in the region.

Now they are thinking of developing at least 30 units of their PaperLux Studio device in the short term so that teachers can test it and, based on that, manufacture 600 units by the end of the year. The technology generation process has been iterative, that is, with multiple improvements, and they are currently in version 14 of the device . One of the important aspects has been the richness of interdisciplinary work. “The approach we have to the problems is very different. Álvaro takes care of the programming and the electronic part and I develop the work of 3D models, design and hardware”, says Luciano. “We are constantly giving each other feedback, on how to come up with a better product, we are interacting and iterating”, complements Álvaro.

Preventing breast cancer
It was the case of a relative of Josefa Cortés that motivated her to give her degree project at the UC School of Design a different twist. “She felt something in her breast, but she thought it was normal and a year later when she went to the doctor for another reason, she found out what she had felt was actually a tumor that had advanced to grade four,” says Josefa . Her finding led her to study the subject and she discovered that about 30% of women who suffer from breast cancer in Chile are under 40 years of age .

His response was to design Palpa , a breast-shaped device made of a soft, flexible plastic material, similar to silicone, that can be filled with soap for use in the shower and that inside has the simulation of a tumor, with its characteristics of hardness and size. Surgeons and oncologists participated in the development process, which included several stages of testing . “Ultimately, with Palpa, women learn how to feel and do a self-assessment. It is a domestic product, because as I feel the soap comes out and I can soap myself and then do a self-check-up”, adds Josefa, who explains that in her research she considered various interviews with womenfound that the shower was one of the spaces where they felt they would have the most privacy to take the exam .

“It rewards me a lot that we generate something beyond the product itself, supporting a cultural change in women, because with Palpa we can get 20-year-old women to start doing self-exams, that is our main success rate” – Josefa Cortés , creator of Palpa

Currently there are 25,000 Chilean women who have purchased the product, which can be found in Salco Brand Pharmacies at a value of 9,900 pesos (about 12 dollars). It is also currently thinking of exporting the device to other countries, which is why its participation in the eMerge Americas fair takes on special significance. Palpa has a team of five people and also investors interested in promoting the initiative beyond Chile.

“It rewards me a lot that we generate something beyond the product itself, supporting a cultural change in women, because with Palpa we can get 20-year-old women to start doing self-exams, that is our main success rate,” concludes the designer.

Solution to face water scarcity
Reflush is a technology that allows you to reuse and filter gray water from kitchen or bathroom sinks. It was a team of students from the UC Faculty of Engineering, made up of Maximiliano Frey, Itzae Flores, José Godoy and Paola Olguín, who developed this device as a response to the difficulties faced by communities in the Maule region, in the central zone From Chile. The drought has lasted for about 13 years in the country and the scenario is increasingly critical for those who live from agriculture and livestock activities .

This innovation with social impact was recently the winner of the Social Ideas Challenge , a contest promoted by the aforementioned HUC Network, whose final was held in Miami. Through a system of communicating vessels and physical compression levers, Reflush also dispenses with the use of electricity, resulting in a highly efficient and economical technology .

“We saw that many families were suffering from water scarcity and were using different very traditional ways to get the most out of the water. It was then that we came up with the idea of ​​designing a system that would allow them to efficiently reuse water,” explains Maximiliano Frey, a UC student and one of the promoters of the project.

After winning the aforementioned contest, various media were interested in the innovation developed by the UC Engineering team. The technology used by Reflush could also become a solution for other countries in the region, which, like Chile, face the adverse effects of climate change and drought .

“From the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, we care about creating opportunities and accompanying students in this training process so that they can become agents of change for global development” – Ana María Sepúlveda, executive director of VRAI

The Vice President for International Affairs of the UC highlights the importance that the development of this type of project has for the institution, which, in addition to contributing to society, also promotes the training of students . “Presenting innovation and entrepreneurship projects to international audiences is an opportunity for students to test new limits, discovering their own abilities and potentialities. On the other hand, they are UC ambassadors to the world, which allows them to open paths for other students.” who want to explore and internationalize their experience,” says executive director Ana María Sepúlveda.

He adds that “from the VRAI we care about creating opportunities and accompanying students in this training process so that they can become agents of change for global development.”

Meanwhile, the executive director of the HUC international alliance, Gabriela Gerón, emphasizes the importance of networking between universities. He says that thanks to the strategic alliance that this consortium of universities has with eMerge Americas, it is expected that initiatives such as the aforementioned can participate in instances such as the StartUp Showcase in categories of university development, early and also advanced , where they can also make known their projects to investors and potential partners who can help expand the impact of these undertakings.

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