Mechanical Engineering Students’ Project Reaches Maturation

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The second batch of students from NP’s Automation and Mechatronic Systems explaining the system with lecturers and hospital staff at Ren Ci Hospital in 2014; (The students, from left): Paw Lian Hai, Paw Lian Deng and Muhammad Taqidin | Mr Robin Tan

Four years on from its conception, the Fall Prevention Toilet Sensor designed and built by students of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s (NP) Automation and Mechatronics Systems course is ready to be implemented in old folks’ homes.

NP teamed up with Ren Ci Hospital to create the system at low cost, which aims to alert caregivers through a spontaneous active trigger when a patient falls. This was to be used in place of the original pull cord system, which most patients have trouble pulling once they fall.

Initially a final-year project of two final-year students in 2014, the system was later improved by another three final-year students from the class of 2015. According to Mr Edwin Ho, 44, who supervised both batches of students working on the project, course lecturers further matured the technology after the students graduated, and the licence for the system was bought by technology company GBS Singapore.

And on Sep 28, 2016, the sensor was implemented at Pearl’s Hill Care Home, the first government-run nursing home.

Through their final-year projects, the students conceptualised and conducted extensive research behind the idea, including making changes at the laboratory when faced with challenges.

“[The] work was done in the lab by the first batch of students to get it up and running, but we realised the original prototype had poor battery life and there was difficulty in mounting the trigger, which caused the system to drop and damage the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) circuit board,” Mr Ho said. “We had to do a few trips to and from the home, but every time, we learned what the problem was and we managed to fix it with the second batch,” he added.

The second batch of students refined the project by redesigning the circuit board, retrofitting the mounting without the use of drilling and prolonging the battery life by having the system shut off when not in use.

“It took about three months for us to finalise the structure design, electrical components and other means to support the waterproofing,” said NP alumnus Muhammad Taqidin, 24, who was part of the second batch of students working on the sensor system. He added: “[During that period,] my group visited Ren Ci Hospital three times to observe the home and test the device in the toilet.” He worked on it with final-year project group mates Paw Lian Hai and Paw Lian Deng.

The system is able to conduct 300 readings at high speed, and utilises movement trackers without cameras to ensure the patients’ privacy is maintained.

While Taqidin has not kept abreast of the sensor’s later developments, he is “glad this device could assist the mobility impaired patients”.

“I hope [the system] can eventually minimise the falling rate at every hospital.”

Of future developments, Mr Ho said they have been “reaching out to several other hospitals”. – MEGAN CHEAH

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