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Feature

Change-makers

Students raring to make a difference in society show Ang Hui Min the causes they stand for

Game changer

A group of NTU Renaissance Engineering Programme students helping a visually-impaired boy learn concepts with specially designed game card questions
PHOTO: ANG HUI MIN
Grishm Chandru Mirpuri (seated, right) learns in a fun and interactive way with specially designed game card questions.

For Grishm Chandru Mirpuri, 10, who is visually impaired, learning concepts like “big and small” and “left vs right” can be challenging.

Enter 12 Renaissance Engineering Programme undergrads who designed a handmade toy train set with 3D-printed parts to transport Grishm into a whole new world.

Grishm moves the train by touch and answers game-card questions whenever the train meets an “obstacle”. In this way, learning becomes fun and interactive.

The 12 NTU undergrads designed four different sets of learning aids after observing classes at charity organisation iC2 PrepHouse, which supports kids with disabilities.

Since visually impaired children cannot grasp concepts by sight, the games draw on their sense of touch. For instance, they have to pair tiles of the same texture, which can feel like fur, grass or cloth. Parts of the train set game were 3D-printed in the Makers’ Lab at NTU’s new Binjai Hall.

Team member Low Chang Hong says: “We believe engineering and technology can play a greater role in social work. With some ingenuity and resourcefulness, even simple technology can be applied to improve the lives of others.”

Injecting a local flavour into the games, the students also created tactile diagrams of everyday items for the teachers to use.

Ms Lee Lay Hong, a teacher at iC2 PrepHouse, says: “With the learning aids designed by the NTU students, children with visual impairment now have a variety of ways to make sense of 2D and 3D objects.”

  • A game card set created by NTU Renaissance Engineering Programme students to help visually-impaired students learn
  • A game card set created by NTU Renaissance Engineering Programme students to help visually-impaired students learn
  • A game card set created by NTU Renaissance Engineering Programme students to help visually-impaired students learn
  • A game card set created by NTU Renaissance Engineering Programme students to help visually-impaired students learn
  • A toy train and game card set created by NTU Renaissance Engineering Programme students to help visually-impaired students learn
PHOTOS: ANG HUI MIN

Sounds like a plan

We hear this group of NTU communication students loud and clear as they hammer away at workplace stereotypes surrounding the deaf.

After surveying 77 employers, they found that one in two have no intention of hiring the deaf due to common misconceptions. These can include a mistaken belief that the hearing-impaired are less productive or harder to communicate with. A meeting with the Singapore Association for the Deaf also found deaf employment to be a major issue.

The final-year students decided to correct these misperceptions with their public campaign project, “Breaking The Sound Barrier”, which also brought together the deaf and the hearing in an intense “escape room challenge”.

Team member Wong Jia Rong, who was inspired to make a change after volunteering with the deaf, says he was heartened by the outcome. “Difficulties communicating at the start of the challenge were overcome – by writing on white boards. With a little effort, the deaf and hearing can work together for a more inclusive Singapore."

There is nothing more pleasant to the ears than the shattering of divisive barriers.

Incidentally, NTU is also believed to be the only local public university that offers an elective in the Singapore Sign Language.

Students learning how to sign letters of the alphabet
PHOTO: BREAKING THE SOUND BARRIER
Learning to sign the letters of the alphabet.

Hatch of hope

According to Malaysian news reports, about 100 babies are abandoned in the country every year, with more than half dying.

“Some people think mothers who choose to give up their babies are heartless, but we hope to reveal another side of the story, such as the desperation and great societal pressure these mothers face,” says Corine Tiah, one of four communication students who went behind the scenes of baby hatches in Malaysia for their final-year project.

Baby hatches are places where people can safely abandon newborns. Speaking to single mothers, humanitarians and a caretaker behind the baby hatches, the team weaved together a compelling documentary that explains the social phenomenon. They plan to work with Malaysian organisations to distribute the documentary to women in need of such information.

Corine, who directed the documentary, says: “We wish to see a future where women with unexpected pregnancies receive the societal support they need to safely give up their babies for adoption or be empowered to raise their child.”

Watch the documentary trailer from the team’s fundraising Indiegogo page. It will have your heart beating in anticipation, just like how the caretaker’s heart thumps whenever she hears the baby alarm go off.

A behind-the-scenes photo of the NTU documentary team filming a caretaker of an abandoned baby in Johor Bahru
PHOTO: BUANG BAYI – BEHIND THE BABY HATCH
The caretaker of the baby hatch in Johor Bahru cuddles a baby who was given up by her parents.

Yes, they can!

In an active society, even the figure on the classic blue and white wheelchair access signs can’t sit still. Cleverly redesigned by a group of communication students, the figure finds new passion in playing table tennis, tennis and basketball with a friend.

These redesigned signs can be seen alongside the original signs at public places like MRT stations, sports centres, hospitals and universities across Singapore, as part of “Project This Ability”. The students started on the meaningful project after a survey found that those with disability did not know much about how they could participate in various games.

“Playing sports helps to build our mental and physical strength, and we did not want to leave out our friends with physical disability, who would be able to benefit from various recreational disability sports as they make friends at the same time. We were inspired by the determination and zest of the athletes with disabilities that we met during this project,” says team member Jeremy Hau.

As part of their campaign to raise awareness for disability sports in Singapore, the students created a one-stop information portal (www.projectthisability.com) that lists disability sporting opportunities in Singapore, and a micro-film that will be screened at train station platforms. To encourage others with disability, the students posted Facebook videos of inspirational people like Sze Ning, who plays boccia (a ball sport) despite having cerebral palsy, and Qian Yin, who not only swings her badminton racquet from a wheelchair but also parasails.

The campaign was mentioned in Parliament by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, after she attended the team’s Para Sports Day. It also caught the attention of the International Table Tennis Federation, which posted a redesigned sign on its Facebook page without at first acknowledging its source.

  • The team of NTU final-year students from Project This Ability with their signs at MRT stations
  • The team of NTU final-year students from Project This Ability with Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth
  • A man in a wheelchair having fun playing table tennis
  • The specially created signs for Project This Ability, a final-year project by students from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information
  • The specially created signs for Project This Ability, a final-year project by students from NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information
PHOTOS: PROJECT THIS ABILITY