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".
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.