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The BrainStormers

A project by: Ana Matran-Fernandez


WE RAISED £3,016

from 22 donors

This project received donations on Tue 15 Dec 2015
Help us attend Cybathlon, the championship for robot-assisted parathletes!

We are raising £6000 to be able to attend the inaugural Cybathlon competition in Zurich in 2016. This is the first large-scale event that aims to bring together research, technology providers and people from the disabled community (named "pilots" in Cybathlon) in order to fulfill two objectives:

  1. Advance science and technology to help people with disabilities.
  2. Strengthen the links between the three key groups to enable future collaborations.

Who are we?

We are a team of researchers from the University of Essex and the University of Cambridge. Most of our team is composed of PhD students in Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI):  systems that allow a user to control an external device (such as a computer, or a prosthetic hand) by using only thoughts.

If you think that's cool, keep reading! :-)

our story

We first heard of Cybathlon about a year ago. We got really excited about the project and the competition and how it can impact people from the disabled community, but also raise awareness in the world about the difficulties that many people face in their daily lives, especially those things that we take for granted, such as moving around or being able to eat without any help.

It was really hard for us to find a "pilot". That is, a disabled person who was willing to join our team and compete in Cybathlon using our system. But we couldn't be happier that we found David!

David and Hilary have become a really important part of the team. They live a few hours away and that limits the amount of time we can spend with them, but we really bonded with them from the first time, and that really helps overcome problems with distance and time.

Due to the distance, we have spent a significant amount on money bringing them to visit us in Essex for data collection and training. We obtained a grant from the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, as well as a grant from the organisers of Cybathlon, which allowed a subset of the team to attend the mock race. Finally, we are sponsored by BioSemi, who will also cover some of the costs of the final trip to Zurich in October 2016.

Attending the mock race was a fabulous experience! At that point, our system was able to classify 3 out of the 4 commands that are needed for the race, but we still managed to win the first (qualifying) race, so we were among the best teams in the final. A reporter even said that no other team had been so happy with winning! We finished fourth overall, but at that point we had proven that we were able to get there with a BCI that worked well enough to get us to the finals! This was an amazing achievement for us, since we were still not able to classify the 4th command!

Seeing the other teams and the other disciplines was really inspiring. The next generation of wheelchairs, prosthetic arms and other enabling technologies are going to be really great, and probably this would have taken longer if it wasn't for Cybathlon. This competition is pushing teams to be the best they possibly can, enabling collaborations between research and industry and bringing awareness to the public about what it truly means to have a motor disability.

By taking part in the competition, we are helping in all these aspects. Our team has worked (and still is) very hard to produce a system that can compete in the finals. We have developed a system from scratch that is capable of reading brain signals and process them in real time in order to decide what command should be sent to the avatar. More importantly, this system can be used to control a wheelchair, giving people with severe motor impediments an extra degree of freedom.

Every person on the team has worked on a different part of this complex system, so it is of paramount importance to have every member on site in the race in case there are any complications with the system. We have received lots of support from the University of Essex and our School, as well as from other sponsors. However, in order to bring the whole team we still need some more money, and that's where you can help!

By donating to our campaign, you will be part of the huge effort behind the scenes at Cybathlon. You will increase our chances to succeed in the competition by helping us to have more training sessions with our pilot. At the moment, we are one of the best BCI research labs in the UK, and reaching a good result in the Cybathlon will attract people and funding to our team, triggering more collaborations and advances in the field of assistive living technologies. But that is not all! Through our goodies, you will also help spread the word about Cybathlon to the rest of the world, so that this competition will reach as many people as possible. What matters, in the end, is the final outcome: a more inclusive world in which disabled people can enjoy a higher degree of freedom and are able to communicate better.

Where will the money go?

Every time our pilot comes for a training session, it costs us an average of £80. At the moment, we have money for 2 visits/month, but that would not allow us to travel to the competition.

The travel and registration expenses when we traveled to Zurich for the mock race cost £750 per person. If we hit our minimum, we will be able to send four people to the competition (2 of them being our pilot and his carer). If we, however, reach our goal, we will be able to send the whole team to the inaugural competition!

We will keep you updated every step of the campaign. Stay tuned for weekly messages on our progress and news from the team.


We are offering some really cool stuff to thank every single donor! Check the rewards and become a sponsor!

how to Find us

We are on Twitter (@CybathlonEssex, @amatranfer) and Facebook (here), and you can check our website for more information about us. We'll also keep in touch on Youtube and you can always drop us an email!

Remember to follow us to find out how we're doing!

Help us succeed!

There are many ways in which you can help!

First, spread the word. You don't need to give us money to help us succeed: you can share this project anywhere and everywhere (radio, Twitter, Facebook, the news!), and become an important member of our team! Let us know how you helped and we'll send you our love!

Second, help us by donating to our campaign. Help us reach our target and receive a token of our gratitude (did we mention we have some cool rewards on stock? Check them again!)

Third, help us find a backup pilot! We love David and we'd never change him, but it's always important to have an extra one in case the unexpected happens or even to promote some healthy competition!