Cool ideas to solve everyday problems

Cool ideas to solve everyday problems
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) students (clockwise from left) Wiwik Karlina, Tang Lecheng Samuel, Lee En Hao, Muhd Zulfadhli Hairi and Kenneth Kam Keen Chong.

Ever walked into a foodcourt at lunchtime and had trouble finding an empty table?

Five students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have found a way to resolve this. They have come up with a sensor system that detects if there are trays on a table.

If a tray is there, a red light will be reflected on a sign system at the entrance showing the occupancy and location of all the tables. The light turns green once the tray is removed - signalling that the table is up for grabs.

"This will encourage people to clear their own tables, and also discourage students from studying and hogging tables in crowded eating places," said the group's leader, Mr Kenneth Kam, 22.

His group's invention was one of those featured alongside 60 other booths set up on Saturday at Suntec City Convention Centre.

A total of 460 second-year mechanical and aerospace engineering NTU students came up with a range of ideas to tackle everyday problems, from transport woes to health-care needs.

Their projects are part of a course they are taking, called engineering, innovation and design.

Associate Professor Rajesh Piplani, who oversees the course, said its aim is to challenge students to identify a problem in life, find an engineering solution for it, and come up with a prototype and a business plan.

"They have put in a lot of effort and thought into their ideas, and the prototypes they made are all done from scratch," he said.

There were five categories, including lifestyle, energy and environment, and design and innovation, at the exhibition, which is in its 16th year. In each category, the top three teams bagged cash prizes of $1,200, $700 and $500 respectively, after being judged by industry practitioners and alumni engineers.

The tray sensor idea finished second in the design and innovation category. The team that beat them had worked on a system to gauge how crowded train cabins are using a thermal imaging camera.

Other teams came up with innovations like a custom-made durian opener with sharp claws to pry the thorny fruit apart, a seat that will unfold only when a person uses a senior citizen concession ez-link card, and a system that uses chilled water to cool duvets.

This article was published on May 19 in The Straits Times.

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