Meet the graduates: Glasgow University’s Matthew Szafranek

As part of our coverage of 2022’s graduate season, we’re talking with a selection of graduates from around the UK about their work, practice and future plans.

Matthew Szafranek is a 22-year-old BA Product design engineering graduate from Glasgow University. His final project is Headr.

Design Week: Can you briefly explain what your final project was about?

Matthew Szafranek: My project, Headr, is an unobtrusive wearable sensor which addresses the recent growing concern that repeated heading of a football may be linked to an increased risk of developing dementia. This year I wanted to work on something topical, and most importantly in a field which I’m interested in. Having been a fan of football my whole life, I felt it would be well suited to a design-engineering project.

After several rounds of prototyping and discussions with many stakeholders within the worlds of brain injury and football, the end product is a sleek, stylish means of capturing head impact data.

It is hoped that recording the frequency and magnitude of each header over a player’s career would, in time, build up a historic record of impact data. This would not only gives more depth to each player’s statistics, but also help advance the research into brain injury in sport. Headr stands out from existing head impact monitors because of its focus on long-term data gathering as it is not just a tool for detecting concussion.

DW: What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

MS: The main challenge with this project was trying to keep the device as unobtrusive as possible, yet accurate in the data it collected. Headbands and other intrusive products like mouthguards would give reliable data but wouldn’t be widely used in a football setting.

The main breakthrough came from achieving an acceleration response from the back of the ear on an area of the skull called the mastoid process. The product being placed around the ear allows for a unique form that was really fun to rapid prototype.

DW: Where do you see your design career in five years?

MS: I believe product design engineers have a great opportunity to change user’s lives for the better with the products they create and this is something which drives me as I leave university. I would love to work in a field which allows me to explore my creative skills as well as the engineering qualities I have developed as part of my PDE course. I am open to all opportunities and am excited at what the future may hold.

You can find our guide to 2022 graduate design shows here.

More of this year’s graduate projects can be found here.

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