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NUS students compete to design robotic aids for the elderly and the disabled using limited resources

NUS students compete to design robotic aids for the elderly and the disabled using limited resources

Recently the inaugural Robots@NUS Competition 2017 was organised at the
National University of Singapore, with students 12 teams of NUS students
developing innovative
robotic aids
for the elderly and the disabled. The results were announced
on January 8. An exhibition featuring the 12 projects was held at NUS
University Town.

The competitors were not just from Computing and
Engineering, but from a much more diverse range of disciplines, including Arts,
Law, Medicine and Science. Thirty-six students participating in the competition
attended a three-day workshop from 12 to 14 December 2017.

They were taught basic programming, construction using the
LEGO sets provided, as well as how to use the 3D printer and laser cutter. Each
team was required to submit a robot built from the materials provided, along
with a video detailing their process and explaining their invention. Additional
materials required for the prototypes had to be either 3D-printed or sourced
from recycled materials.

Team Silver Flexer, comprising Chua Song Yu, Year 3 NUS
Mechanical Engineering; Heng Meng Pei, Year 2 NUS Mechanical Engineering; and
Clement Tan, Year 2 NUS Computing, won the top prize with a product which incorporated
gamification to help the elderly stay fit. Inspired by game machines at arcades
and casinos which offered rewards, the team decided to build a device that
could help the elderly to stay active and independent, while distracting them
from fatigue. The machine comprises of elderly-friendly movements and exercises
that simulate real world activities, combined with interesting/ interactive
activities and games, with rewards to motivate them to try their best.

NUS Computer Science Senior Lecturer, Dr. Anand Bhojan, one
of the judges, commented on the winner, “Silver Flexer had multiple features
including a set of well-thought out activities for the elderly as well as
interesting visual rewards and physical tokens. While the visual rewards
provide a sense of achievement at each level, the two types of physical tokens
added endogenous value to increase the efficacy of gamification by increasing
user engagement and retention. It is a complete system and the team was able to
tackle the engineering challenges using only the limited resources provided.”

Handroid, a robotic arm that translates a person’s actions
into movements, won the second prize, while Legoceries, a shopping trolley that
can carry groceries and climb stairs, was awarded the third prize. Handroid aids
the elderly in their daily tasks and can be controlled wirelessly by a
"remote control".

Above photo: L- Handroid By Heng Zhi Xuan Caryn, Lee Jun Yao Francis, Wong Peng Fai Shannon; R- Leogoceries by By Gollapudi Venkata Sambhavi Deepthi, Lim Jing Jie, Ho Jun Xuan, Benedict/ Credit: NUS

The LEGOCERIES is designed to be used by the elderly while
shopping for groceries. It eliminates the need for the elderly to carry heavy weights
while climbing stairs. The elderly can instead spend the time communicating
with other people. The robot has handles for supporting their backs. The
shopping cart platform can be raised so that the elderly do not have to bend
low and lift heavy weights. With just a push of a button, they can simply raise
the platform.

Senior Lecturer from NUS Computer Science Dr. Soo Yuen Jien,
who chaired the event organising committee, spoke about the need to cultivate
the “maker spirit” among students. “The maker spirit is valuable because it
encourages an appreciation of craftsmanship and cultivates a lifelong learning
attitude; the maker movement encourages students to come up with new ideas and
apply them in building new constructs,” he said. To foster cross-disciplinary
collaboration, project teams had to consist of students from at least two
different faculties.

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