Designed in Singapore: Tools to help those who have disabilities

Singapore Polytechnic students (from left) Gerald Tan, Faith De Vera and Cody Tan with prototypes of the 3D-printed syringe holder they designed. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Student inventors put their thinking caps to the contest to come up with tech solutions designed to help people with disabilities gain more independence.

Held at the National Library last Saturday, non-profit organisation Engineering Good's fourth annual Tech 4 Good competition showcased several winning inventions from 30 entries from students between 15 and 25 years old.

The source codes for these tech inventions are available free at GitHub, an online software development hosting platform that promotes collaboration, to allow more designers to build on the ideas to help others in need.

These are three highlights from the winning entries:

Braille-inspired syringe

Dispensing precise amounts of medication is often a tricky guessing game for people with visual disabilities who may struggle to see the small measurements printed on a syringe, said applied artificial intelligence and analytics student Cody Tan, 20.

During his research, he spoke to a senior with low vision who said he often struggles to give medication to his service dog.

Mr Tan said: "He just has to guess, but sometimes he is a bit scared. It's a concern because these measurements can be very crucial."

Mr Tan's winning team from Singapore Polytechnic designed a 3D-printed syringe holder with thick, embossed lines that indicate measurements down to the millilitre for those with visual disabilities to read with their fingers as they draw fluids.

Fitted onto a standard syringe, the holder guides the user to draw precise amounts of fluids through touch, feeling for the thick lines that work like Braille - a tactile writing system.

The product, which won the Most Impactful Award, can also benefit those who may need to draw liquids in dark places or tight corners where their view of the syringe is obscured, said Mr Tan.

Team member Faith De Vera, 20, said the team hopes to refine the product and develop new sizes to fit an insulin pen or other commonly used syringes.

She said: "The codes for our product are open source. Others can use the codes and design the product better. That'll be mission accomplished for us."

Robotic camera arm

Singapore Institute of Technology students (from left) Yu Yucan, Alencia Tan, Aliimul Hakiim and Yeo Yi Xuan with a prototype of a robotic arm that can help those with muscular dystrophy take photos independently. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

People with muscular dystrophy, a disease that causes the loss of muscle mass, often need help to prop up their mobile devices for video calls or to take pictures.

Taking photos can be challenging for these individuals as they would need to hold their mobile phone up for a relatively long time, said Miss Alencia Tan, 22, whose group from the Singapore Institute of Technology won the Best Advocate Award last Saturday.

"Some of them are very passionate about photography but have to get a helper to assist them after a while," said Miss Tan, a mechanical design and manufacturing engineering student.

"It's a cumbersome process for them and we want to help these guys to take pictures independently."

A robotic arm designed by the team helps people with muscular dystrophy take photos by themselves.

The arm can be fitted onto a wheelchair to hold a user's mobile device, and is paired with an app that can automatically centre the image taken.

Eye-tracking technology using the phone's camera allows the app user to instruct the robotic arm to take a photo by blinking, without requiring the user to touch the phone.

Spam message filter

Students (from left) Liu Yanzhao, Kiran Lim and Kazu Ho from the School of Science and Technology, Singapore, with their presentation showing how their app can prompt those with intellectual difficulties to communicate better with others. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

An app developed by a team of Secondary 3 students from the School of Science and Technology, Singapore, aims to filter foul language and spam messages to help people with intellectual difficulties communicate in more socially acceptable ways.

The app, called Friendly, temporarily suspends the user from sending texts when it detects spam messaging.

Spamming a group chat is a common reaction among people with intellectual disabilities, especially when they do not get an immediate reply, according to social workers the team interviewed, said team member Kiran Lim, 15.

He said the filter is meant "to encourage good social skills and create a safe space to learn", and the timeout can help teach the user to have patience and "resist the impulse to spam, reminding them that spamming doesn't increase their ability to reach others".

The filter runs in the background and gives the user gracious social communication prompts when it detects gibberish or repeated messages that can offend recipients.

The user is asked to acknowledge reminders to communicate kindly before the restrictions are lifted.

The problem statement the team's project addressed was submitted by the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore.

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