VR training drills for SMRT among graduation projects by SP Engineering students

A Singapore Polytechnic student demonstrates a virtual reality training drill for SMRT staff, which simulates train track maintenance training. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC

SINGAPORE - Singapore Polytechnic students have created two virtual reality (VR) training drills for SMRT staff, which simulate train track maintenance and evacuation drills.

Developed by two teams of aeronautical engineering students, they were showcased among 39 final-year projects at the annual Singapore Polytechnic Engineering Show on Wednesday (Jan 15).

Currently, train evacuation drills are practised on actual trains and require the activation of the emergency door. This, however, has been a costly exercise due to the limited lifespan of the emergency door - so it is seldom activated during drills.

In a virtual emergency scenario, SMRT staff can practise activating the emergency door and reacting to emergency situations. The simulations closely depict potential scenarios such as a fire outbreak, and staff perform their evacuation exercises accordingly.

The students are working towards incorporating more elements in it to enhance the training experience.

"We plan to add on voice instructions, train announcement and virtual characters, to give the program a more realistic feel", said KhrishnathanRavinchan, 20, one of the students who worked on the project over its six-month development.

A second student-led project for SMRT has as much potential to save lives.

By providing a first-person perspective beginning at a virtual train station and extending along the tracks, the track maintenance program lets technical staff, wearing VR headsets, practise fixing faults and carry out maintenance duties.

"After our first mock-up, the SMRT staff at Kim Chuan Depot trialled our VR and reflected that the station was not accurately portrayed, so we made the necessary improvements," said project team member Timothy Tan, 20.

Such simulated exercises could prevent fatal accidents from occurring during on-the-job training. In 2015, two SMRT maintenance trainees were killed by an oncoming train while walking along the tracks.

Sticking purely to the real world, 19-year-old mechanical engineering student Sin Kwang Yang decided to tackle some of the problems that come with an ageing population.

Singapore Polytechnic Advanced Manufacturing Centre director Steven Tan alongside Hydrolife founders Kelvin Lim and Low Wang Chang, with final year student Sin Kwang Yang at the Singapore Polytechnic Engineering Show on Jan 15, 2020. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC

He and his lecturer collaborated with a local hydrotherapy company - founded by two SP alumni, no less - to develop a portable hydrotherapy tank and system that can be installed at eldercare centres or community hospitals to facilitate water-based rehabilitative exercises or fitness sessions to prevent muscle degradation.

Suitable for wheelchair users, the tank is anti-slip, equipped with hand rails and can be set for different water temperatures.

Kwang Yang worked alongside his mentor, director of the Advanced Manufacturing Centre at SP Steven Tan, on improving the initial prototype during his internship with the company, Hydrolife.

"I was able to use my knowledge to re-design the piping systems (of the tank), and I learnt how to troubleshoot issues should any problems arise along the way," he said.

The hydrotherapy tank will be tested by seniors at the Man Fut Tong Welfare Society activity centre.

The company intends to eventually rent the tank out on a subscription basis.

To further more collaborations for innovation, SP has introduced its first Technopreneur Mentorship Programme, which aims to encourage innovation among engineering students and help turn their ideas into viable business solutions.

This will be funded by 14 partners from fintech, engineering and software solutions industries, among others.

Other projects at the Engineering Show also included an autonomous electrical vehicle that leverages on a 5G network and is expected to operate on campus grounds.

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