Malaysian students closer to RM167k prize

Special help: Le showing off her MA-Pencil.

AUTISM spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability that affects one in 100 children globally.

It is evidenced that timely early intervention helps optimise the development, health, well-being and quality of life of autistic people.

While gripping a pencil might seem easy to many, it can be challenging for autistic children and can greatly impact their confidence.

This is something Universiti Sains Malaysia student Le Qi understands well.

The young inventor was recently crowned national champion of the coveted James Dyson Award (JDA) – an international design award competition across 28 countries that is organised and funded by the James Dyson Foundation to celebrate, encourage and inspire the next generation of inventors and design engineers.

Le’s MA-Pencil, a multifunctional pencil aimed at helping autistic children with learning and writing disabilities, earned her the top prize of RM27,900.

The idea for her invention came about after a visit to a centre for special needs children.

Realising that gripping a pencil correctly was one of the biggest challenges faced by those with special needs, Le was inspired to tap into her design background to help the community.

“Everyone is different. Our needs, personalities, cultures, languages, ages, and so on.

“I think the existence of inclusive design is necessary to create a better and more comfortable life for all,” said the final year industrial design student who aims to help children with autism learn better.

Saving oceans: (from left) Mostafa, Cher Khai, Chan, Joon Yi and Tan with their invention.Saving oceans: (from left) Mostafa, Cher Khai, Chan, Joon Yi and Tan with their invention.

Teams from Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) were named national runners-up in the competition.

A collaboration between industrial design and engineering students Mostafa Marzouk, Chan Jing Hung, Lim Cher Khai, Lim Joon Yi and Tan Jia-Hao, APU’s Team Techgasus were recognised for their underwater propulsion vehicle with a micro debris filtering system.

Dubbed “Whalecro”, the invention which seeks to address microplastic pollution in the ocean was inspired by the filtered feeding system of the whale shark, Chan, who is the team leader, shared.

The whale-like structure was designed with a filtering system made up of Velcro straps to efficiently capture micro debris in the ocean.

When the vehicle accelerates forward underwater, the water current flows in the opposite direction of the vehicle.

As a result, it pulls in the surrounding micro debris with the aid of current which passes through a series of motor-powered filters.

The rotating filters then capture the micro debris as the water current flows through.

The filtered ocean water then flows out of the vehicle.

Finally, a specially designed device is used to extract the micro debris trapped on the filters where it can be easily brushed off and disposed of accordingly.

Chan and his engineering coursemates embarked on numerous experiments, concept-proofing and prototyping before Mostafa, a budding industrial designer, transformed the technical idea into an ergonomic and visually appealing product.

To maximise the efficiency of the micro debris capturing mechanism, the team tested it with different designs and shapes on one of the beaches along the Straits of Melaka.

“As team members of different disciplines, we worked toward understanding each other’s mindsets and how we each approached a problem.

“Ultimately, this was the most valuable takeaway from our months of hard work,” said Chan.

Team Techgasus lead mentor and lecturer Eekang Ooi lauded the synergy between the students of different disciplines.

“While the engineering students focused on the technical side, the industrial design student looked into the user experience and consumer market.

“The result is an attractive and fully functional product.”

Must-have tool: (from left) Helmi Rashid, Nursalbiah Nasir and Mohd Fauzi Maulud are the brains behind SwiSH.Must-have tool: (from left) Helmi Rashid, Nursalbiah Nasir and Mohd Fauzi Maulud are the brains behind SwiSH.

The nod for UiTM came from SwiSH (Swirling, Safe and Handy) – its patented rotating telescopic car jack.

Comprising three concentric cylindrical components, the user-friendly tool allows users to jack up a car easily and safely.

The national winner and runners-up will represent the country at the international round of the competition this month.

A total of 83 Malaysian entries were received from budding engineers and students across top universities nationwide, all vying for the RM167,000 international winner prize to further their research and development.

The national winner and runners-up were announced on Sept 7.

The JDA international shortlist will be announced on Oct 12, and the international winner on Nov 16.

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