They were inspired by the telekinetic prowess of Star Wars' Jedis.
So two Diploma in Engineering Science students developed a mind-controlled robot for their final-year project.
The wheeled robot has a micro-controller that interprets human brain activity (or electroencephalography signals) and moves according to signals sent out by a user via a Bluetooth-enabled headset.
If the user concentrates, the robot will move. When he blinks, the robot will change directions.
The project, named May the Force Be With You, was inspired by George Lucas' famous movie franchise.
"I chose to do this project because of the Force in Star Wars," said student Max Pang Ek Wee, 19.
"This project gives you similar power because when you concentrate hard enough, you can move things."
Together with Miss Kimberlyn Loh Cheng Lin, also 19, Mr Pang spent about two months researching mind-controlled robotics and were confident that they could come up with something good.
They bought a commercially-available headset, NeuroSky's MindWave, which monitors brain waves and blinking.
Mr Pang and Miss Loh started to decipher what the headset could do and what it was reading.
"When you think or feel, neurons in the human brain fire up and produce electrical pulse. So what this device does is read the current and voltage of the pulse," said Mr Pang.
The duo then coded the readings and and fed the data into Arduino, a mini-controller.
Mr Pang hopes his invention will be developed into something greater to help others.
"I think there are many possibilities and great potential for mind-controlled robotics," he said. "This technology can be applied to gadgets such as mind-controlled wheelchairs.
"Imagine the freedom it'd give to a paralysed user if he could control his wheelchair with his own mind power and by blinking.
"It can also be used for industrial purposes, helping to cut down accidents."
A bionic arm to lend a hand
These students hope their bionic robot arm can replace human workers operating in dangerous environments, such as defusing bombs or carting away toxic waste.
Diploma in Engineering Science students Duan Jia Fei and Kevin Chew, both 20, have designed their own humanoid robotic arm, Your Mechanical Right-Hand Man.
"Although this has been done before, we built ours from scratch," said Mr Duan, a Singapore permanent resident from China.
"The only thing we were given was a plastic structure of the hand by our supervisor.
"We even constructed the framework for the arm and programmed everything to work.
"Of course there were problems, such as the arm vibrating when it moved upwards. We solved it by adding a counterweight."
The framework, which maps the structure of the human arm, was used by the duo in developing a highly-capable robotic version that can be remotely controlled.
Your Mechanical Right-Hand Man consists of a "slave" multi-fingered humanoid robot arm and a "master" set of gloves.
An operator wearing the master gloves, with a smartphone strapped on, can control the robotic arm through electric signals. The robotic arm mimics the movement of the fingers and arm of the operator.
Mr Duan said: "It currently runs on batteries or adaptors but we aim to make it portable. When used in industrial and dangerous areas, the operator can move things and keep a safe distance at the same time."
Ngee Ann Polytechnic Open House 2016
WHEN: Today (Jan 7) till Saturday (Jan 9)
TIME: 10am to 6pm
WHERE: 535, Clementi Road
This article was first published on Jan 7, 2016.
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