Designing for Social Impact: Tech & Design for Social Good
Melanie Tan, IDEAS Hub, Dover Campus
The IDEAS Hub hosted the first showcase for Tech & Design for Social Good on the 19 June 2018. In this showcase, students displayed the prototypes they made for Mr.Vivek Verma, a wheelchair user who is paralysed from the chest downwards. The prototypes showecased included an Amazon Alexa programmed to switch on electrical home appliances, 3D printed zips, cup holders and a custom made grip for Mr.Verma who has limited flexibility in his hands.
The activity led by Vihan and Kabir, Grade 11 students on the Dover Campus was first conceptualised in September 2017. It was suggested by Mr.Hari Ramachandran, a UWCSEA alumni who wanted to introduce the concept of assistive technologies to students at UWCSEA. His friend, Mr.Vivek Verma agreed to participate in the activity to provide insight on the difficulties faced by wheelchair users. This activity was also supported by Mr.Ian Bellhouse (current parent) who guided Vihan and Kabir through the initial stages of prototpying. The Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Mechanical and Aeroengineering (MAE) Robotics Club also helped with mentoring students through the process of building the prototypes.
The activity debuted in Season 3 of the 2017/2018 academic year, with four Middle School students, Leo, Max, Seunglok and Orhyun.
Students made a visit to Mr.Vivek to speak to him and tour his house in order to understand some of the challenges he faces in his daily life. Over the next three months, with the help of Mr.Hari, students worked to make afforable and practical prototypes that could help Mr.Vivek's mobility. The students also had the opportunity to visit the Innovation Lab and Robotics Research Centre at NTU hosted by the NTU MAE undergraduate students. During the visit, they were able to see the latest developments in car and robotic research conducted by professors and students at NTU.
The students hoped that the prototypes they designed can be further refined to be good enough to be used as everyday items in Mr.Vivek's life. This activity will hopefully be run again in the 2018/2019 academic year with new problem sets to inspire more students to use tech and design to positively impact society.