Using coffee waste to grow mushrooms, home rehab device among winning entries in SIT competition

Minister of State Low Yen Ling (in blue) with the two winning teams of the Mapletree Challenge at Mapletree Business City on May 5, 2022. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - After learning that six million tonnes of coffee grounds are sent to landfills every year, a team of Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) undergraduates proposed turning the coffee waste into a growth medium for oyster mushrooms.

Students Rita Tay, 21, Raphael Chua, 25, Sean Loh, 24, Nurice Lam, 22, and Tan Yi Shan, 22, who call themselves The Gastronauts, said: "Coffee is one of the most popular drinks worldwide, with over two billion cups consumed every day across the globe, so composting is one of the ways to recycle these spent coffee grounds."

The team is one of two joint winners of the annual Mapletree Challenge organised by SIT for its students.

First launched in October 2018, and now into its third edition, the challenge encourages entrepreneurial innovation, problem-solving and presentation skills among participants.

Real estate company Mapletree has committed a total of $524,000 to the programme since its inception.

The other joint winner this year, RADnovation, wants to develop a portable rehabilitation product that will help patients who are injured and require physiotherapy.

The team, comprising Ms Claire Chia, 23, Mr Alexander Quah, 25, Mr Sng Shan You, 27, Ms Junise Leow, 22, Mr Ramasamy Subramaniam, 25, and Mr Willie Goh, 27, came up with the idea after Mr Goh dislocated his elbow.

"I was just lying down on my bed and thinking what I should do. That was when I thought of a device so patients can rehabilitate in the comfort of their home," he said.

Called the Rehab Bar, the device will have chest presses and a pulley so patients can work out their upper body muscles, and a maze-like puzzle to help them recover their dexterity.

The device will be paired with a mobile app that doctors can use to remotely track their patients' progress.

The teams each won a cash prize of $5,000, which was presented by Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling, who was the guest of honour at the prize-giving ceremony at Mapletree Business City on Thursday (May 5) .

Another team, hoping to capitalise on Singapore's plan to expand the cycling path network to 1,320km by 2030, proposed developing a mobile app to promote cycling.

"During the (Covid-19) circuit breaker... more people took up cycling, so we want to... tackle issues faced by cyclists," said the team comprising computer engineering students Aaron Ng, 24, Ong Jun Sheng, 27, and Keith Yeo, 24.

The app, called BikePass, will include a navigation map of cycling networks, a marketplace to buy and sell bicycles, and the ability for cyclists to set performance targets and milestones.

The team came in third in the competition and won a cash prize of $2,000.

The RADnovation team hopes to eventually sell its device to hospitals.

The members said they hope that winning the competition would give them an opportunity to collaborate with physiotherapists as "our knowledge in this area is not sufficient yet".

Meanwhile, The Gastronauts said they will use the prize money to further their research, using more popular varieties of mushrooms such as enoki or button mushrooms.

They hope to work with the Ministry of Education to introduce their grow kits to classrooms.

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