skip to main contentskip to main menuskip to footer Universität Bielefeld Play Search
  • Neurocognition and ­Action - Biomechanics

    © Universität Bielefeld
Switch to main content of the section

Project Coordinators

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schack
Ludwig Vogel

Pricipal Investigators

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schack
Dr. Kai Essig

Responsible Investigator

Ludwig Vogel

Direct Project Partner

Adaptive Cognitive Training (ACT)

Project duration: 09/2014 - 09/2017
Project funding: 163.000 Euro


A joint project by Bielefeld University and the Bethel Foundation

Mentally handicapped employees might at times confuse the order of work processes. Someone may, for example, fail to load a part into a fixture before sanding it, or forget to ring up an item at the cash register. A new project from Bielefeld University and the v. Bodelschwinghsch Bethel Foundation aims to help handicapped individuals easily master the steps of on-the-job tasks. Ludwig Vogel and Heiko Lex from the Center of Excellence in Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) are working on the project, which starts in January. The project is lead by Professor Dr. Thomas Schack from the working area of "Neurocognition and Movement - Biomechanics". The sports science researchers have developed a computer software programme that displays the individual problems and steps of work processes and then offers tips for improvement.

CITEC is working together with proWerk, the unit of Work and Occupational Rehabilitation of the v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel, on a project called "ACT" (Adaptive Cognitive Training). At proWerk's sheltered workshops, people with various disabilities can put their occupational training into practice. Two-year vocational training programmes prepare handicapped individuals to participate in the workplace - as far as possible in the general job market. After successfully completing their vocational training, handicapped individuals can, for example, assist a professional chef in the kitchen, work in logistics, or help serve customers. Such vocational education arrangements can even enable some handicapped people to take up a regular vocational training programme or apprenticeship.

The research project is taking place at the cafeteria service station of the Educational Centre Schopf on the Brokstrasse Street in Bielefeld. Here, young handicapped individuals are supported and trained in such a way that they will be able to practice a profession despite their disabilities, and if possible, even find a position in the general job market. For this reason, they are learning skills at the Educational Centre Schopf such as food preparation, how to serve customers, or how to assist in catering. Learning how to appropriately address customers, as well as understanding where the products come from, are also part of their training.

"It is sometimes the case that a handicapped employee thinks about a thousand things at the same time. For this reason, it may be that he is on his way to greet a customer when it occurs to him that he still has to sort the silverware. He then simply walks away without taking the customer's order because first he would like to sort the forks and the knives in the kitchen," says CITEC researcher Ludwig Vogel. During the learning phase, it is important that the trainees understand that there are certain tasks that come up during each different chronological phase of their work, such as setting up a service station. These tasks are committed to memory and categorizing the individual actions can help employees properly perform the tasks in their everyday work. Here, the computer programme developed by Lex and Vogel comes into play.

In the future, handicapped individuals training at the cafeteria of the Educational Centre Schopf will determine on screen which steps are important to their workplace tasks. Using both words and images, the software depicts the different types of workplace activities, which the trainees must categorize. They will have to decide what belongs together and what does not fit: What happens at the same time in the respective work process, and what is separate? For example, does filling up a fruit basket go together with setting up the coffee machine? To answer these questions, the trainees manually track the images to either the left or the right side of the screen. The exercise will then be repeated, in some cases once a week, and for others, once a month.

In a pilot project with 12 participants, Lex and Vogel have already gained experience using this software. "It is very interesting to observe the principles people use to classify the types of workplace activities", says Vogel. "Some do it randomly, while others pay attention to colour and group together, for example, all images with a lot of blue. For others, it does work quite well." The programme evaluates the responses and according to Vogel, "The analyses of the software programme mirror quite accurately what we can also see in the trainees in their everyday work." Because the pilot programme was successful, the joint project will now begin in January and will run for the next three years. Future plans also include an avatar: the face of a virtual person will appear on screen who will speak to the trainees, give them advice, show them how they can improve, or motivate them (e.g. "Great, keep doing that!").

"Before our software programme, trainers obviously also observed the trainees in order to give them pointers for improvement," says Vogel, who along with his colleagues would like to refine these methods with their software programme. The software will systematize and individualize diagnostic assessments. Trainers will be able to address trainees in a more targeted way and intervene earlier. "It is important to us that we do not interfere with the trainers' work," explains Heiko Lex. Diagnostic assessments, using methods from psychology, will be regularly repeated, which will make changes and progress visible. "We want to put helpful resources into the hands of the trainers and their trainees," says Lex. "In sports, we have already been successfully conducting diagnostic assessments for a long time. If this project also goes well, then we will be able to bring diagnostic assessments to other areas of the v. Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel and other social institutions."

A hand in front of a touch screen with images to choose
© NCA-Group - Universität Bielefeld

Related Publications

back to top