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Real world research for real impact

The word ‘research’ may conjure up ideas of an academic surrounded by books, or slaving away over a thesis, or testing something in a lab.

The truth is, research can take many forms, not least applied, and bring many immediate and tangible benefits to staff, students, and external partners. It just needs a problem to solve.

Dr Sara Bragança discovered one of these problems and set out to solve it. She realised that wheelchair rugby players did not have access to a glove that met their specific needs, so she set out to fill the gap.

Here’s how to carry out applied research in four easy steps:

  1. Carry out a literature review. Sara surveyed what was already out there in terms of product but also with regards to the science, and identified the nature of the gap.
  2. Carry out field research. Sara sent questionnaires to wheelchair rugby clubs all over the UK to canvass players’ views on what they currently used and what they would like to see.
  3. Design a prototype. Sara commissioned Product Design students through Solent Creatives to come up with possible designs in a competition.
  4. Create a physical prototype. The winning design encompassed neoprene for padding and durability, mesh for breathability, a rubber coating to improve grip, and an adjustable strap. This was shown to players for their feedback, so the final product could be the best possible outcome.

Sara’s research, with its practical, real-world application, kept students motivated because they could see progress and development and how they could contribute.

More importantly, though, together they created a product that has the potential to have a real impact and change people’s lives for the better.

Today, wheelchair rugby. Tomorrow – who knows?