Building Robots to Help the Elderly and Disabled

 

NG Jing Yi, Year 4 Chemistry, is keen to contribute to entrepreneurial ventures to help the elderly when she graduates. 

To this end, she participated in the inaugural Robots@NUS Competition 2017, where 36 NUS students across 12 teams developed innovative robotic aids for the elderly and the disabled. To foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, project teams comprised students from at least two different faculties.

Participants attended a three-day workshop, from 12 to 14 December 2017. They were taught basic programming, construction using LEGO sets, as well as how to use 3D printers and laser cutters. Each team was required to submit a robot built from the materials provided, and a video detailing their construction process and explaining their invention. Additional materials required for the prototypes had to be either 3D-printed or sourced from recycled materials.

Jing Yi said, “My soft spot for the elderly convinced me to try this competition. Our team faced a steep learning curve as we had no engineering and programming experience. The concept of building a robot and the fundamentals taught were fascinating. I was in awe of the wide variety of functions that we can programme in a robot!”  

She added, “To functionalise our robot, it was dismantled and improvised at least five times before the product design was finalised. Every change in design was a tedious thinking and physical process, but the complete design was worth the effort.” 

On her experience, she said, “I believe that skills grow with experience. Three weeks into the competition, we acquired the “Lego mindset” after assembling and reassembling the blocks. We must be willing to experiment, to discover our interests.”
 

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Jing Yi (left) with team members from the Faculty of Law and the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

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Constructing the robot from LEGO parts

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The completed robot will reduce the possibility of elderly members slipping and falling. The two circular wipers at the front help to spread water out on wet surfaces, while the conveyor belt cleaner at the back mops up the remaining moisture on a specific area. This is set to be automated after elderly members leave the bathroom, to accelerate the evaporation rate of moisture from wet surfaces. 

The competition results were announced on 8 January 2018. An exhibition featuring the 12 projects was held at University Town.