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[APU] A Low-cost Self-stabilising Spoon for People With Parkinson’s Won International Apicta Award

January 27, 2023 | Campus News

APU celebrates 22nd APICTA awards at local and international levels since 1999

World Health Organisation (WHO) recently disclosed that disability and death due to Parkinson's Disease are increasing faster than any other neurological disorder globally. This report also specified, the prevalence of Parkinson's has doubled in the past 25 years.

The most common and visible symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremors or shaking, which hinders patients eating routines as they cannot hold cutlery steadily to consume food. Considering this, three Mechatronic Engineering undergraduates were inspired to create “a low-cost self-stabilising spoon for people with Parkinson's”.

With this HealthTech project that serves patients who can’t afford to buy existing high-priced products with similar functions, the team – “Tremor X” from the Asia Pacific Centre of Robotics Engineering (APCoRE), School of Engineering, Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU), earned international recognition at the recently held 21st Asia Pacific ICT Alliance (APICTA) Awards 2022 in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Outshining 20 teams from 16 member countries under the “Student–Tertiary Technology” category, APU bagged the Merit Award in this event which concluded in mid-December 2022. Before this, the team emerged as the Student Tertiary Category winner at the national level’s MSC Malaysia APICTA 2022 Awards and became the TOP qualifier representing Malaysia at the International level.

Dubbed “OSCARS of the IT industry”, the APICTA Awards is an international accolade programme designed to stimulate ICT innovation and creativity that aims to increase ICT awareness in the community and assist in bridging the digital divide. Members of APICTA consist of 16 economies including Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Macao, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Two of APCoRE-APU’s inventors – Wong Heng Ying and Ang Jia Ze represented the team at this grand final, they were mentored by Ts. Vickneswari Durairajah and Mr. Suresh Gobee, Lecturer and Senior Lecturer of the School of Engineering. Jamila Njeri Mathu, another inventor of this project, couldn’t join the trip to Islamabad.

With more than 200 nominees from different countries of the Asia Pacific region presenting their projects, team Tremor X pitched their invention to the jury by explaining the set-up of the self-stabilising spoon that consists of an Inertial Measurement Unit sensor, motors, a control unit with Arduino nano and a Bluetooth module enabling Parkinson’s patients to eat independently.

“Once the spoon is switched on, the Inertial Measurement Unit begins measuring the tremor values being experienced at the handle and sends it to the mobile application through the Bluetooth module. These additional features will allow for collecting and storing tremor data that tells doctors when a patient’s tremors worsened.

“At the same time, the spoon’s orientation is also measured by the Inertial Measurement Unit and sent to the Arduino for pre-processing. The data is filtered, and the Arduino then controls the servo motors and rotates them accordingly to counteract the input tilt or tremor, hence aiding Parkinson’s patients to feed themselves independently,” explained Ang Jia Ze.

The team’s idea is to allow mass production in bringing down the price of the spoon. By reducing inequalities in a society, especially when it involves people living with disabilities, on top of differences in social economy’s status, their invention was aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 3.

“After all, this is a sustainable innovation that is working towards bettering the lives of a marginalised group,” added Ang.

Ts. Vickneswari chimed in by stating the judges were impressed by team Tremor X’s application of the UNSDG 3 to the project. UNSDG 3 is about ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.

“The biggest aim of the team is to develop a tech-infused cutlery that can benefit patients with Parkinson's, as well as their family members, caretakers, and healthcare personnel. We aspire to create a better living experience for patients who are unserved and underserved, and provide the most affordable device for countries across the globe, especially to the low-income and mid-income countries,” shared Ts. Vickneswari.

With the hope to obtain funding from NGO and CRS-based bodies to take it on from the prototype, manufacture and commercialise it as a product so that those in need could be helped, the supervisors of this project affirmed, “With the foundation of the practical application of engineering science and technology, the team portrayed strong analytical thinking, sturdy knowledge of design techniques, as well as proficiency in computers and electronics, these were all beyond what we expected. We believe the production will take shape one day!”

Prof. Ir. Eur. Ing. Ts. Dr. Vinesh Thiruchelvam, Chief Innovation & Enterprise Officer, APU, complimented, “Our mechatronics engineering students have taken their knowledge and skills obtained via their curriculum onto medical mechatronics. The innovation produced by the students under the supervision of expert academicians is a fusion of electronics, electrical and mechanical engineering.

The use of mechatronics has allowed for extreme 'miniaturization' which empowers sensing and monitoring heading to the use of less invasive technology while having a profound impact on patients. I am truly proud of what the team have achieved at APICTA!” Prof Vinesh concluded.

APCoRE was designed and commissioned in 2013 jointly by Prof Vinesh and Mr Suresh Gobee enabling students to put theory into practice.

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