These Singapore Engineers Aren’t Just About Machines – They Are Fixing Lives Too
Engineering today is one of the most intriguing and creative industries today.
Does that sound odd? It’s true however – an engineer invents solutions.
These solutions don’t necessarily fit into the grand scheme of life like Musk’s SpaceX. They can also be about the small things.
A toy that puts a smile on a child’s face, or a device that helps the elderly age with more dignity.
It can be about Engineering Good.
Engineering Good empowers disadvantaged communities by resolving their barriers to development, and increasing their access to opportunities.
These can be in the form of projects, such as working with the Youth Corp to set up clean water access in Koh Phdao, Cambodia.
But these projects also strike close to home.
1. Engineering Good Student Chapter (EGSC)
Here, NUS students devised affordable solutions for local beneficiaries – namely the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) and Bishan Home for the Intellectually Disabled (BHID).
i) Wheelchair Solution
The NUS team devised a simple ramp to roll wheelchairs up stairs, a problem prevalent in older estates.
“Our main concern was [creating] a prototype within the limited time, so we decided to modify commercially available products as our costs would be lower.”
ii) Helping Patients Walk
The NUS team at BHID created a sensor system to gather gait-and-balance data from patients.
Gait refers to the action of walking. Together with balance, they allow someone to walk properly. If either isn’t working, you could be dizzy and motion sick, even on flat surfaces.
The team’s device monitor gait-and-balance problems in patients, which allows therapists to customise treatments for them.
The team hopes their device will be useful for others, such as to elderly family members in the home.
2. Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC)
Here, engineers from the DSO National Laboratories got together to “hack” toys. Using everyday materials such as clothespins, they replaced the joysticks of remote-controlled cars with colourful buttons.
This enables special needs children to play with them and learn about cause and effect of buttons.
Special toys are difficult to obtain and can be more expensive.
As Engineering Good’s founder Hannah Leong shared, “children with special needs should not miss out on the joy of playing with toys because they have difficulty operating small buttons.”
3. Rainbow Center
From April to November 2016, Engineering Good volunteers worked together with Rainbow Center (children with developmental needs).
i) Team Iron Man
Nurses and engineers came together with a common goal – to help someone else.
Team Iron Man wanted to help children with developmental needs use one of the most useful learning tools of today – the iPad.
These kids could not hold the iPad by themselves, so the devices needed to be mounted on their wheelchairs.
“The students were a little shy, but they warmed up quickly once we started interacting with them,” the team shares.
“Although we had to do numerous rounds of modification, the hard work was all worthwhile when you see the smile on their faces.”
(ii) Team Adapt 2 Write
Team Adapt 2 Write, made up of five engineers and an occupational therapist, worked to improve the learning ability of children who were mute. Due to their condition, these children’s writing ability was stunted.
What the team did was create customised writing tools for these kids using 3D modelling, which the children could better handle.
“Simple things like when the children remembered our names and asked when we’d be coming again, and when our solution came to fruition. These are the times we knew, this was all worth it.”
Engineering A Better Life
Engineering need not be about the new ‘World’s Tallest Building’, or the next hair-tingling roller coaster.
It’s the small things engineers create that mark a big victory.
Engineering Good hires mechanical engineers, material scientists, and people with the desire to make the world a better place. Please visit Engineering Good and Engine Room to explore more engineering roles,
This article was written in collaboration with engineroom.sg.