(these)abilities L.A.B #1.3: Advanced Prototyping for the MRT Platform Gap (Series 1 Session 3)

Posted by: theseabilities | in Projects | 6 years, 10 months ago | Comments

Finally, we reach L.A.B #3! One step closer to a solution coming to reality, and where everyone gets their hands dirty!!

From the 8 rapid prototypes in L.A.B #2, we bid farewell to 5 of them, leaving just 3 prototypes to focus on. One each for a system-level, product-level and people-level solution. After some explanation, all participants understood that filtering solutions was part of the process. It was the perfect ‘kill-your-darling’ exercise, allowing them to give up attachments to favourite solutions and get creative on the prototypes at hand!

We were split into 2 teams once again. Team Places & Team Product!
(For the uninitiated, Team Places works on system-level solutions meant to be pitched to train operators to implement. Team Product works on product-level solutions meant to be attached to wheelchairs.)

Builder's Toolkit
(A builder’s toolkit for our participants!)

In the toolkit, we provided everything necessary to build a solution: materials, simple instructions, safety measures and most importantly, the message that all participants are equally capable! No one is going to steal the opportunity for our wheelchair using participants from using all the prototyping equipment! It felt so much like a Masterchef’s Mystery Box Challenge.
Safety Rules
(Safety is a huge deal here at (these)abilities L.A.B as we look to make all prototyping tools and facilities accessible to Persons with Disabilities)

Team Product:

The aim of the Product team was to take L.A.B #2’s swivel lock solution for the front swivel wheels of a wheelchair, and make it a reality!

**It was very important to note that swivel lock’s should only be used when getting in and out of trains as swivel wheels play an important role in the manouverability of a wheelchair at other times. So to lock and unlock the swivel wheels quickly and on-demand is a must!
Team Product Strategy
(Team Product strategizing how they would accomplish the task at hand)

In the Product team’s toolkit, were 3 difficulty levels that they would aim to tackle.

Team Product Challenge

Challenge #1:

Prototyping the swivel lock with a door latch. A pure mechanical solution that was simple yet effective. However, it would require a wheelchair user to bend their body in order to reach the latch located near the swivel wheel. Due to differing physical conditions, not all wheelchair users would be able to utilise this function with a door latch.

So onto the next challenge!

Challenge #2:

Replacing the door latch with an electromagnetic actuator. It is an extendable metal piece that can be controlled by a switch. It functions just like a door latch, but now we can place the switch closer to the user, on the arm rest of a wheelchair. Also, it requires less effort and dexterity to flip a switch as opposed to engaging a door latch.

This was a key feature for wheelchair users with stroke and muscular dystrophy. However, having a physical switch means unsightly wires that run from the swivel wheel to the armrest.

This could lead to electrical hazards in wet conditions, or run the risk of wires getting entangled with the wheelchair. So onto the next challenge!

Challenge #3:

The same solution as Challenge #2, but this time WIRELESS! Replacing a physical switch with a digital switch. This requires the building of a mobile phone application that can control the swivel lock wirelessly via Low-Energy Bluetooth (LBE). This requires knowledge on electronics and a little programming!

To our surprise, Team Product chose to go straight to Challenge #3! These guys really love a good challenge!
Electronics 101
(Resident Maker, Syabiqah, giving Team Product a crash course in Electronics.)

(Kenden Pua, who is a wheelchair user and stroke patient, stripping wires with a helping hand)
MD individual soldering
(Thomas Teo, who has muscular dystrophy, putting his electrical engineering background to use with some soldering!)

(Our wheelchair ready to undergo “construction” by UWC students, Gabriele and Adriene. They were drilling the hole that would create the swivel lock.)

(Maker Shi En giving Team Product a crash course in programming language, Arduino.)


Aaaaaand….the end product!! Without the swivel wheel to show how the mechanism works.

From learning electronics, soldering and programming.. to putting it into practice all in under 3 hours, we can’t say that we weren’t impressed! Amazing job by everyone in Team Product!


Team Places:

Working concurrently with Team Product, Team Places sought to build a life-sized 1:1 scale prototype of a platform ramp that would extend to cover the MRT Platform Gap, and retract when not in use.
**The ideal platform solution created also had to make sure that the solution did no damage to the MRT platform, a truly “plug-and-play” solution. It also had to be slim enough not to pose a tripping hazard for other commuters, especially visually-impaired individuals!

(Esmond, a wheelchair user, discussing the viability of the 1:50 scale model we provided to Team Places)

(Our resident participant, Vanessa, marking some plywood in preparation for cutting)

(No prizes for guessing who did the measurements!)

(Esmond taking control of cutting plywood using the band saw! Maker Wilfred was on hand to assist, whilst Maker Din was on hand to supervise and ensure everything was safe and under control!)

Here is a video of Esmond in action!

So what happens after wood is cut? Well, we need to sand it smooth to avoid anyone from getting splinters in their hands!

(Vanessa giving sanding a shot with a handheld sander, with the supervision of Maker Wilfred!)

(First-time participant Serena tried her hand at sanding too!)

After the wood was cut and smoothened, we joined them together using metal door hinges.

(Our future maker has got all the equipment needed for that settled!)


Aaaannd… the final product! Our first 1:1 scale prototype! Well done Team Places!!


These are the first prototypes of solutions being created in a 3-hour session, and participants will come back to the (these)abilities L.A.B regularly to work on their prototypes and eventually build a viable solution!

We will have more updates on the progress of these solutions in due time and possibly hold a Demo Day where we show all prototypes leading up to a final solution! Keep a lookout for that on our website and facebook page!

In the meantime, here are what our participants had to say about (these)abilities L.A.B #3:



Current rating: 5


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