Robots to the rescue

15 January 2018 | Education
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Handroid was developed by three Year 2 students — Caryn Heng (right) and Shannon Wong (centre) from Computer Science as well as Francis Lee from Computer Engineering

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

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.

Thirty-six students participating in the competition attended a three-day workshop from 12 to 14 December 2017. The competitors — hailing from diverse disciplines such as Arts, Computing, Engineering, Law, Medicine and Science — 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, as well as 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.

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Top prize winner Silver Flexer being demonstrated by its creators (from left) Meng Pei, Song Yu and Clement Tan

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, was awarded the first prize. Their product incorporated gamification into fitness, enabling the elderly to carry out movements and exercises coupled with motivational rewards. 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.

Speaking of the top prize winner, NUS Computer Science Senior Lecturer Dr Anand Bhojan, one of the judges, said, “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.”

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.

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.

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Legoceries was the brainchild of Year 1 Architecture student Benedict Ho (left), Year 1 Industrial Design student Lim Jing Jie (centre) and Year 2 Electrical Engineering student Gollapudi Venkata Sambhavi Deepthi

Dr Bhojan was impressed with the variety of innovative products the students came up with in the short period of three weeks. He noted that the development of such products required skill sets from multiple disciplines. The other judges were NUS Surgery Assistant Professor Alfred Kow, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education; Mr Kenneth Pinto, Lead Educational Technologist at NUS Centre for Instructional Technology; Dr Rajesh Panicker, Lecturer at NUS Electrical & Computer Engineering; and Mr Qutubkhan Zoher from Duck Learning.

Submissions for Makerthon 2017, a competition for NUS students to design and develop an NUS memento, were presented at University Town alongside the Robots@NUS Competition 2017 prototypes. Makerthon 2017 is organised by NUS Design and Environment.

View all the Robots@NUS Competition 2017 projects here.