In Singapore, 10 households are trialling an activity-tracking smart home device that could let people know what their elderly parents or family members with health problems are doing, giving them more peace of mind.
When the device is installed in a home’s electrical distribution board, it tracks electricity use and identifies activities, such as people boiling water, having a shower or watching television, based on the data.
Called the Smart DB Elderly Wellness Suite, it is the latest innovation to be born out of the Temasek Polytechnic (TP) School of Engineering’s commitment to multidisciplinary projects and partnerships with industry.
Students and lecturers from the school worked with expertise across TP, tech start-up Smart DB and a social service agency, to create the device that brings together varied disciplines — from advanced engineering, artificial intelligence and smart buildings, to human behaviour analysis and technology commercialisation.
Says Mr Wong Kia Ngee, the School’s director: “These collaborations help our students to deepen their engineering knowledge and skills, learn across disciplines such as business and IT, as well as sharpen their soft skills in complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence.”
Partnerships for success
The TP School of Engineering offers 10 full-time courses and one common entry programme. These courses cover aerospace electronics, aerospace engineering, aviation management, architectural technology & building services, integrated facility management, biomedical engineering, business process & systems engineering, computer engineering, electronics and mechatronics. In all of them, students have abundant opportunities to take part in multidisciplinary and industry-partnered projects.
While these joint efforts are included in their final-year curriculum, they can go to the School’s Centres of Excellence to propose ideas for new ones or join existing projects from as early as their first semester.
For example, students from the aerospace and aviation diploma courses, as well as the Electronics, Mechatronics, Computer Engineering and Green Building & Sustainability (renamed as Architectural Technology & Building Services) courses, have collaborated with the Aviation Research Centre, the Clean Energy Research Centre and the Interactive Digital Centre Asia to develop an artificial intelligence-enabled smart fuel cell drone that flies four times longer than normal drones and performs highly complex surveillance tasks.
“The external partners included local and overseas technology firms and universities, such as Oneberry Technologies, Duralite Power, Chongqing University and the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, to provide global immersion for our students,” says Dr Kwan Kian Hoong, the school’s deputy director for industry partnerships.
Students from the Diplomas in Electronics, Mechatronics and Computer Engineering have also worked with the Robotics and Automation Centre, multinational corporations and small- and medium-sized enterprises, including Meiban, Systems on Silicon Manufacturing Co Pte Ltd, Omron, and HIT Robot Group from China, to construct autonomous mobile robots.
Dr Kwan adds: “Through these partnerships, they were able to apply and enhance their knowledge and skills, learn about cutting-edge technologies in robotics, advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence and other fields, and see the robots they developed deployed in plants.”
The Healthcare Engineering Centre is another area where a group of dedicated staff work with aspiring students from the Diplomas in Biomedical Engineering, Electronics and Mechatronics, technology firms and hospitals to develop biomedical micro-electro-mechanical-system (MEMS) based healthcare devices and systems.
This exposure to multi-disciplinary technology and scientific R&D gives TP students an additional edge, providing them with the knowledge and practical experience to pursue a pathway in furthering their studies or careers in scientific research.
Some of the teams have even produced award-winning innovations. From 2018 to 2020, students from TP’s clean energy and mechatronics disciplines were crowned winners of their category three years in a row at the annual Shell Eco-Marathon Asia race that promotes ultra-energy-efficient vehicles, with the hydrogen-powered cars that they designed, built and drove.
Ready for the future
Mr Wong notes that the School’s students have an array of career options when they graduate, and many find jobs soon after their graduation.
He says: “As an engineering student in TP, you will develop strong fundamentals and critical analytical capabilities to start your career well. Depending on your aspirations, you will enjoy diverse career opportunities.”
“Here, we not only train our students to be competent in their areas of study, but also prepare them to be innovative and creative in their thinking and approach, as well as resilient and future-ready for the ever-changing world,” he continues.
Having benefited from their learning in TP, many alumni continue to work through the polytechnic to give back to the community. Through TP, they get the chance to help create solutions to pressing issues by working with local and overseas non-government organisations.
“Our students have developed drones and applications in aerial mapping for disaster relief operations in Indonesia, for example, solar power systems to light up villages in the Philippines, and smart systems to intelligently disinfect lifts in Singapore,” says Dr Kwan.
“These projects not only hone the students’ technical capabilities, but also provide opportunities for them to contribute ideas towards improving lives and solving current issues relating to climate change, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Navigating tomorrow’s needs
Moving forward, TP School of Engineering aims to further enhance its offerings for students. It already has dedicated programmes to deepen students’ engineering skills, enhance their leadership abilities, as well as groom those keen in technology development and start-ups.
In 2021 and 2022, it will open three more Centres of Excellence — specifically the TP Advanced Manufacturing Centre, Enabling Technology Collaboratory and Integrative Built Environment Centre — to further enrich students’ learning and expand its network of industry partners.
These centres will be equipped with cutting-edge technology like advanced robots, smart building systems and immersive media applications, and will work with strong industry partners to jointly prepare TP students for the future.
To share more about its programmes and opportunities for students, TP will host its first ever virtual open house on Jan 7, 8 and 9, with live-streamed talks and interactive workshops from 10 am daily.
It will also conduct a two-hour webinar on Jan 9, from 10 am to 12 pm, to introduce parents and students to polytechnic education. This will include a question-and-answer session and break-out chat rooms helmed by teams from different disciplines to answer any burning questions you may have and ease the daunting process of choosing the right course.