Students showcase award-winning inventions to assist the elderly and disabled

Chua Yi Xiang (left) and Jenson Ting Kian Seng, both 17, pose with their invention the Ely Walking Stick.
Chua Yi Xiang (left) and Jenson Ting Kian Seng, both 17, pose with their invention the Ely Walking Stick.PHOTO: NTU

It was heartbreaking for ITE student Chua Yi Xiang to see an elderly man with a walking stick slip and fall on a wet road last year.

Yi Xiang, 17, from Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central, stopped to help the man up, but the incident also motivated him to develop a walking stick that could prevent such elderly people from slipping on wet surfaces.

So Yi Xiang and his college mate Jenson Ting Kian Seng, 17, invented the Ely Walking Stick, which clinched them a Gold Award yesterday in the Design Category of the Fifth National Assistive and Rehabilitative Technologies Student Innovation Challenge.

The walking stick is designed to vibrate to alert users to wet surfaces, as well as light up in dim conditions. The prototype was positively received when it was tested at Thye Hua Kwan Hospital.

The challenge, organised every year since 2013, saw teams of polytechnic and ITE students develop inventions to improve the quality of life of the elderly and disabled.

This year, it was co-organised by the Rehabilitation Research Institute of Singapore at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the Centre for Health Assistive and Robotic Technologies at Changi General Hospital.

The top three teams from the Design and Technology categories respectively were announced at the NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine yesterday.

Three teams from each category were also selected for the Best Presentation, Best Ergonomic Design and Best Poster Awards.

The gold, silver. and bronze award winners from each category will be sponsored to fly to Japan to take part in the International Student Design Challenge there from Aug 22 to 24 this year.

At a public exhibition held after the presentation ceremony, students eagerly demonstrated their prototypes to representatives from healthcare groups.

The drive to help stroke sufferers like her late grandfather motivated ITE College Central student Tang Li Yun, 21, to develop the Carapace Arm-Lifting Rehabilitative Device with four other team mates.

The portable device has an assistive arm that lets stroke patients do arm exercises at home.

Although the six months of researching and designing the invention was "very stressful", she felt a sense of satisfaction at seeing the prototype on display.

ITE College Central lecturer Chng Wee Kian, 50, said that he felt good about his students being able to exhibit their prototypes.

"They have the urge to do something for society," he said, referring to the students' motivation for taking part in the challenge.

Elderly individuals who spoke to The Straits Times said such inventions could be useful to them.

Construction contracts manager Long Sze Kee, 65, who has trouble moving around due to weak joints, said he could have use for such inventions in the future as he might need "a wheelchair or car to go from place to place."

Correction note: This story has been edited to clarify that only the gold, silver and bronze winners from each category will be sponsored to fly to Japan to participate in the International Student Design Challenge. The name of  Tang Li Yun has also been corrected. We are sorry for the errors.