Floating farms and 'soft' robots: SUTD students tackle Singapore's challenges

SUTD students Mr Chia Hou-An and Mr Clement Ravindran designed a floating farm for their final year project. ST PHOTO: NG WEI KAI

SINGAPORE - Students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) are floating up an idea called Seaform to help the nation achieve its food security goals.

Seaform - a floating, self-sustaining farm that aims to tackle rising sea levels and land scarcity too - takes water from the sea before purifying it for crops like lettuce.

It is among a raft of new inventions from SUTD students - showcased in an exhibition at the Changi campus on Friday (Aug 5) - to address Singapore's challenges.

Seaform is powered by wind and solar energy, said one of its designers - fourth-year information systems technology and design student Clement Vimal Ravindran, 24.

He is in a group of seven students from various disciplines who designed Seaform as part of their final-year project.

They built a small-scale version of the platform for the exhibition on Friday, complete with lettuce they have been growing with a filtration system fed with salt water.

The group's leader Chia Hou-An, 26, said: "The vision is to build these floating platforms at 5,000 sq m each.

"They will be hexagon shaped and modular, meaning that you can attach additional platforms for other purposes like office buildings or transportation, forming a 'floating city'."

Students also worked on projects improving existing infrastructure, many teaming up with agencies like GovTech on issues such as waste collection and road maintenance.

One such invention is Sleek - a "soft robot" which moves like a worm through rubble to find disaster victims using heat, carbon dioxide and sound sensors.

Unlike traditional robots built with a rigid form, Sleek uses air pressure to grow and extend its tube-shaped body to navigate fallen buildings.

This makes it manoeuvrable enough to sniff out survivors through the cracks, said one of its six designers, Ms Seah Qi Yan, 22.

Sleek is a "soft robot" which moves like a worm through rubble to find disaster victims using heat, carbon dioxide and sound sensors. PHOTO: SUTD

The project hopes to give SCDF’s disaster relief workers a durable and cost efficient tool for search and rescue operations.

The team developed it in close consultation with rescue specialists and the Home Team Science and Technology Agency.

The projects cap four years of study for the students, most of whom will be finishing their degree courses next month.

Some plan to launch their projects at scale soon.

The team behind Seaform have named themselves AgriArk and hope to go commercial after graduation.

"But first, we have to finish our exams over the next two weeks," said Mr Clement.

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