Engineering for Greater Good | SPD - Singapore

Engineering for Greater Good

The notion that engineers, with their technical skills, can help vulnerable communities resolve daily challenges had resulted in the inception of Project Make Possible by a group of like-minded individuals from the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Project Make Possible helps bridge engineering undergraduates to these communities through a series of events such as a humanitarian engineering talk and workshops to expose the students to humanitarian engineering projects.
Makerthon was one such event to get the students to come up with practical solutions to tackle the following pain points of persons with disabilities:
1. Manual wheelchair users having to exert considerable strength to go up ramps independently;
2. Difficulty for commuters with disabilities to flag down buses;
3. Due to limited mobility, wheelchair users having difficulty securing multiple electronic devices such as tablets and mobile phones to their wheelchair.
In early May, 40 students who were involved in Project Make Possible visited SPD where they learnt about assistive technology and accessibility at SPD’s Specialised Assistive Technology Centre (Specialised ATC). They also spoke to SPD clients Hussein and Ruth who shared with the group their daily challenges. The interaction resulted in the formation of the three problem statements.
The winner of the first problem statement was team STuFF which wanted to lessen the strain on wheelchair users going up ramps. They rationalised that by changing the method of wheelchair propulsion to a simple push and pull lever, it could essentially reduce the effort required.

An extendable lever is attached before the wheelchair goes up a ramp and detached at the end of ramp. This system would enable almost any wheelchair to transit with ease from a normal conventional wheelchair to a "ramp-friendly" wheelchair and vice versa.
“We have gained much as a team and as individuals through this experience and we do hope to see through our project to its completion and its eventual application. After all, as engineers, there is nothing that brings us greater satisfaction than to see our designs impact the world around us,” said Tan Fu Nan, STuFF’s team representative.
Team iMake’s double-decked tabletop, designed to help persons with disabilities manage multiple devices on their wheelchair, won the judges’ votes for the third problem statement.

“The main aim of our product is to empower persons with disabilities to be as independent as possible. For those with a wide array of electronics and gadgets, our integrated table will allow them to access all their devices with ease, with minimum help others,” said team member, Wang ErDong.

The team modified the existing tables used by wheelchair-users to one that is able to house touch screen devices on the top with a compartment underneath that could store laptops. Powered by a fully automated mechanism, flipping the table top simultaneously opened the laptop cover. The table also had a fully automated headphone which could be calibrated to swing to the users’ ears when picking up phone calls. The automated mechanisms were all controlled using an Android App.

“We are very happy with the amount of training and resources provided for this event. We have learnt a great deal, and despite winning this competition, the greatest takeaway is the process of engineering design and making it applicable to people with disabilities,” added ErDong.