Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 01/14/2013 02:34 | By Channel NewsAsia

Students coming up with innovations to solve societal problems

Students coming up with innovations to solve societal problems

Students coming up with innovations to solve societal problems

SINGAPORE: Tertiary institutions in Singapore have spent much time and effort over the years in nurturing their students to be innovative.

And more importantly, an increasing number are applying this quality to help solve societal problems through their projects.

This observation was made by Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) deputy principal Mah Wee Beng, during an event showcasing students’ projects.

A video posted in June last year on YouTube started it all.

The clip featured a dispute between two commuters over a reserved seat on an MRT train and that sparked an idea among three students in the Automation & Mechatronic Systems course.

Co—inventor of the priority seat system Seah Xiang Long, said: "People are actually working. Of course, everybody is tired. Seats are more comfortable in a sense, than standing on the train itself. Therefore, I think that most people would not give up their seats. I think that prevention is better than cure. This project is to prevent them from hogging the seats."

The seat can’t be hogged, unless one have a card that unlocks the folded seat which folds back automatically when the seat is vacated.

There is also a back—up plan, in case commuters forget their cards.

This feature alerts the train driver, who can release the seat.

This was one of 14 projects featured on January 7 at the polytechnic’s open house.

NP noted that there have been more public—spirited projects in recent years and attributes this to students’ exposure and awareness of issues outside the classroom.

Ngee Ann Polytechnic deputy principal Mah Wee Beng said: "Studying, these days, in a diploma course, cannot be just being good in their domain area. They also need to appreciate what goes on around them. So therefore, again, in this respect, they are encouraged to participate in community projects, volunteer their time.

"They are given many opportunities to take up authentic real—world projects with the industry with some social enterprise as well, work with them, and through all this exposure, they know the society better, appreciate the needs out there. They are able to then, attempt to solve many of these, and make Singapore a better place to live in."

The boys said their project needs fine—tuning which could allow the station control and not just the driver to release the seat.

Chua Beng Hoe, co—inventor of the "priority seat" system, said: "We are still in the final year of our FYP project. So, by the end of the month, we will take a video and put it on YouTube, to let everyone know that we have come up with this. After that, we will send an email and the video to SMRT and buses to see how they reply us."

The boys spent six months and about S$2,000 on the prototype which they hope in time to come will find a place on the MRT trains.

— CNA/fa

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