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Tunisian all-womens team eye inventors prize for smart wheelchair

Published : Saturday, 15 June, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 590

TUNIS, June 10:  A smart wheelchair system built by a team of young Tunisian women engineers has reached the finals for a prestigious European inventors prize, setting a hopeful precedent in a country embroiled in multiple crises.

Their project, Moovobrain, allows wheelchair users to move through a choice of touchpad, voice command, facial gestures or, most impressively, a headset that detects their brain signals.

It has been shortlisted from over 550 applicants for the final round of the Young Inventors Prize, launched by the European Patent Office in 2021.

This year marks "the first time a Tunisian and Arab team has reached the final" stage of the international competition, the EPO said in a statement.

The all-female team will compete against two other finalists, from the Netherlands and Ukraine, for the top prize on July 9 in Malta.
The inspiration for the Moovobrain app first came from co-founder Souleima Ben Temime, 28, whose uncle was "forced to use a wheelchair to move" after his upper body was paralysed.

"There was a clear and urgent need in front of me," she told AFP.

"I talked about it to my friends and we decided to use the digital health technologies ... to make a product that could benefit a lot of people."

The four inventors met at the Higher Institute of Medical Sciences in Tunis, where they began developing the Moovobrain prototype in 2017, before creating health-tech start-up Gewinner two years later.

The teams international success comes despite Tunisias growing economic and political turmoil in recent years that has pushed thousands of Tunisians to seek a better life in Europe through perilous overseas journeys.

President Kais Saied, elected in October 2019, has launched a sweeping power grab since he sacked parliament in July 2021.

The political crisis has been compounded by a biting economic meltdown -- but that has not dampened the young womens spirits.    —AFP

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