Nifty designs address daily needs

4 November 2015 | Education
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Flex is a walking cane that 'blossoms' on contact with the ground for improved mobility

Flex, a modernised walking cane for the elderly developed by Year 3 Industrial Design student Kevin Chiam was one of the inventions on display at the inaugural Global Grad Show as part of Dubai Design Week. Held from 26 to 31 October at the Dubai Design District, the exhibition showcased 50 innovative projects handpicked from 10 international design schools and tertiary institutions by curator Mr Brendan McGetrick, one of which was NUS.

"I tried to choose exhibits and projects I felt opened up new possibilities and addressed desires or needs not being addressed now, explained Mr McGetrick. The exhibition had six themes ' Home, Play, Work, Construction, Health and Memory ' and gave the students and universities an opportunity to demonstrate their work to an international audience.

Kevin's idea for Flex stemmed from witnessing his 82-year-old grandmother's mobility challenges. After looking at different designs of walking aids, he shared his perceived shortcomings. "Quad-canes and four-legged walkers are very stable but they are also very cumbersome and restrict natural movement. On the other hand, the walking stick allows natural movement but is not stable and has poor shock absorption causing aches and pains over prolonged periods. I wanted to get the best of both worlds, he said.

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Kevin (left) with curator of the exhibition Mr McGetrick at the Global Grad Show in Dubai

He came up with a collapsible shoe design which "blossoms upon contact with the ground, cushioning the impact when the user leans on the aid and offering a stable anchor due to increased traction with the ground. An internal spring mechanism allows the cane to return to a streamlined profile while off the ground. Flex incorporates Kevin's design philosophy of making intuitive and simplistic products influenced by zin, the Dutch word for "sense.

Also featured in the Global Grad Show were recent DID graduates Elyn Wu and Alvin Tan. Dex, designed by Elyn in collaboration with the National University Hospital, is an integrated healthcare system in the form of a pair of smart insoles designed for diabetic patients. The insoles are paired with a health monitoring system and a suite of exercise games to help reduce the risk of diabetic neuropathy. Alvin's ER+ is an improved first aid bag with several compartments that makes emergency care more efficient.

Adopting the same sense of bold minimalism, Kevin also recently developed a desktop cable organiser together with two of his classmates. Frustrated with entangled cables, he created NOAH as a "vessel to house messy cables but with a simple twist the abilitiy to "lengthen or "shorten the cables by looping them around a zig-zag structure with three levels. It can accommodate between 3 to 18 cables of varying length depending on the number of loops made. The team has launched a crowdfunding campaign which will run until end November to enable commercialisation of the product.

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Kevin also designed NOAH, a cable organiser with a twist

See media coverage.