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  • Helping elderly with their gadgets

    Students win design awards for their inventions

    The annual Institute of Engineering Singapore Design Awards challenge young engineering students to come up with inventions that benefit the elderly or handicapped. Here are two of the award-winning inventions.

    H-Frame, a two-legged walking stick

    The group from Temasek Polytechnic came up with the H-Frame walking stick for the elderly.

    One of the members, Miss Rebecca Tan, 19, said the increase in elderly people meant walking aids were more in demand, not just here, but worldwide.

    “We realised that there’s the one-legged walking stick, for those who need a little help, and the four-legged walking frame, for those who need a lot of help. But there isn’t a walking aid that caters to those in between,” she said.

    Their invention caters to those in the in-between group as it offers more support than an ordinary walking stick.

    “We saw an elderly man using a walking stick in one hand and an umbrella in the other hand to support himself. From there, we got the idea to make an aid with two legs.”

    The frame can be collapsed into a normal walking stick with one leg.

    The team members emphasised the importance of this function, as it means that the frame can be made smaller when used in confined spaces, or on public transport.

    “It’s very important that we minimise the self-consciousness of the elderly when they carry around these aids,” said team member Cecelia Tay, 20. “The H-Frame is compact and convenient.”

    The team spent more than $1,000 and worked on it for six months.

    And it has received rave reviews from the elderly.
    Miss Tan said: “We took the H-Frame to St Luke’s ElderCare, and received very positive feedback from the people there. The physiotherapy expert there also said there’s no invention like ours on the market.”

    The team also consulted an orthopaedic surgeon from Singapore General Hospital, who told them that the H-Frame “gives a fulfilling experience to the user”.
    The two, and the third member of the team, Miss Vera Zheng, also expressed their pride at being the first all-girl group to win the gold award.

    “I feel very proud about it,” Miss Tan said. “We didn’t expect to get the gold. We were just putting our passion into action.

    “There’s always this misconception that engineering is all guys, and that it’s all about machines. But it’s extremely fulfilling to be able to participate in that whole process, from generating ideas, to actually seeing the product get made. There’s a lot of human focus to it too.”

    The girls’ lecturer and mentor, Mr Hong Geok Hua, 55, said the team was looking to commercialise their innovation.

    “It’s great to see them create something that there’s a real need for,” he said.

    WeCare Smart Application

    Another team from Temasek Polytechnic, which won the silver award, went the more tech-savvy route.

    The all-male team came up with the WeCare Smart Application, an android phone app designed to make smartphones a little easier for the elderly to use.

    The app, which is in development, will have four main functions, one of which is to replace names on a phone’s contact list with photographs, thereby making it easier for the elderly to find those they want to call.

    The team is developing a “control panel” function, which will enable the user to turn on and off whatever appliances they have in the household with just a press of the button.

    The team has been working on the project for four months.

    The application will also include a location finder and an emergency service dialer.

    When asked about the inspiration that led them to create the app, team leader Amit Chong Bang, 20, said: “The elderly are getting more tech savvy. This app makes using phones easier for them, and will help them wherever they go.”

    And the team also received positive feedback from the elderly whom they showed the app to at the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore’s Silver Infocomm Closing Ceremony.

    “The elderly thought it was quite usable,” said team member Ang Yew Chien. “But some still found it a little too complex!”

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