Polytechnic students win awards for using technology to improve lives

The Lee Hsien Loong Interactive Digital Media Smart Nation Award recipients Chryston Chua (right) and Neo Yizhe with their project titled Dementia Patient Tracker using Sigfox.
The Lee Hsien Loong Interactive Digital Media Smart Nation Award recipients Chryston Chua (right) and Neo Yizhe with their project titled Dementia Patient Tracker using Sigfox.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE -Tracking the whereabouts of dementia patients can be a difficult and expensive task, but two Singapore Polytechnic (SP) students have used the latest technology to develop a tracking device which costs a dollar a month to operate.

Mr Chryston Chua and Mr Neo Yizhe, both 21 and from SP's diploma in electrical and electronic engineering, were tasked to create the tracker for their final-year project last year.

They are one of five teams who on Tuesday (Aug 14) won the Lee Hsien Loong Interactive Digital Media Smart Nation Award, which recognises polytechnic students in the areas of interactive digital media. Each project received a one-off cash award of $1,000.

In all, 188 students from 82 educational institutions were recognised for their achievements at the Special Awards Presentation Ceremony, held at Republic Polytechnic.

Mr Chua and Mr Neo used low power wide area network (LPWAN) technology called Sigfox for their dementia tracker.

Normal trackers, which start at $199 in price, work using online apps but these can be problematic if there is no Internet connection. However, the pair have developed a system that can send caregivers up to 140 texts a day to inform them of a patient's whereabouts every 10 minutes. Subscription costs start at $1 a month.

The emergency button on the device, once activated, will produce sound and light up, and SMS alerts to the caretaker will increase in frequency to once every five minutes.

Mr Chua said: "My late grandmother suffered from dementia for 12 years. I remember when I was in Primary 3, she went out with my grandfather, and he came back alone and flustered. Our whole family panicked and scrambled to find her.

"When we were given this project, I was inspired to create it for those with dementia and their caretakers."

Mr Neo said: "When we were doing research, there were only four search results on Google about this new technology, so we had to work through much trial and error to get it right."

Six students from Republic Polytechnic's diploma in design for user experience (DDUX) and diploma in electrical and electronic engineering, also won the award for a collaboration with the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS).

Their project titled CHIKIT consists of a Pachi, a wearable tracking and fidget device similar to a fidget cube, Hochi, a home monitor, and a mobile application for caregivers to track and monitor the intellectually disabled.

Pachi is also able to detect if the wearer falls and alert the caregiver through e-mail and push notifications from the application. Hochi has a camera attached inside it, which caregivers can view through the app. It is also able to play music and voice recordings.

DDUX student Subramaniam Selvanaiyagam, 21, said: "We had a picnic with about 15 intellectually disabled adults from MINDS and their parents, where we conducted observations to try to cater our design to their needs."

Miss Dayna Wong, 21, added that after consulting the parents, the team tried to keep the device as cost-efficient as possible by saving on materials. They 3D-printed their prototype.

Meanwhile, five students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic's (NP) diploma in biomedical engineering and diploma in environmental and water technology course worked with the National Environment Agency (NEA) to develop an automated "gravitrap" that traps and kills female mosquitoes using bait-water to lure them to a sticky tape.

Currently, the NEA uses about 50,000 gravitraps, and their operators have to manually refill the bait-water, retrieve trapped remains and count the number of trapped mosquitoes.

The team's device can allow NEA to pinpoint which gravitrap's bait-water is insufficient, to prepare and allocate their manpower.

NP hopes to work on the use of an infra-red camera that can auto-count the number of mosquitoes trapped.

Some 196 Special Awards - the highest number in a single year so far - were given out to recognise students' achievements in both academic and non-academic spheres, including their contributions to the community.

Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, and Culture, Community and Youth, presented the awards at Tuesday's ceremony.