Students from the Amrita School of Engineering at Amritapuri were recently awarded a gold medal for their project – a gesture-based wheelchair. Besides being honored by the special Intel employer’s award for best project, they also placed third at the Intel India Embedded Challenge.
Intel had received 2,170 entries from student teams in areas including medical devices, consumer electronics, green computing, robotics and gaming. 455 shortlisted teams were invited to submit project abstracts. Finally 36 teams were asked to develop prototypes.
The company provided Intel Atom kits and funding of Rs. 5000 to each of the selected teams including Amrita. The Intel research centre will now prepare a case study about their efforts.
Arjun Askok, Nived Krishnan, Daniel C.J. and Arun Kumar, who just graduated with B.Tech. degrees in Electronics and Communication Engineering, and were part of the successful team, shared their experiences.
“It was a usual final-year project for us. Initially we planned to make a gesture-based steering controlled mechanism. But our guide, Br. Rajesh Kannan, insisted that we build something that was useful to society. That is when we started work on the gesture-based wheelchair. But we were not very enthusiastic about it.”
“Things soon began to fall into place, however. When the project was presented before the college’s review committee, it caught the attention of many. The faculty appreciated our initiative and that boosted the confidence of our team. Perhaps it was only then that we realized the real purpose behind the project. After this, there was no turning back.”
Working together, the students built a wheelchair model using a small camera mounted very close to the where the physically challenged person’s hand would rest. The camera was capable of tracking small movements of fingers, to understand where the person wished to go.
“The recognition system was interfaced to the wheelchair control system so that a physically challenged person could use it in order to move to the desired location.”
Current models of wheelchairs provide joysticks or buttons for navigation. However the physically challenged includes quadriplegics who do not have fine motor control; they find it hard to use these models. The students’ model has a fine control system that allows one to easily turn the wheelchair to the right, left, front or back.
The team now intends to publish a research paper. A team of junior students will work to enhance the model.
“We are confident that our model can be built at a price of Rs 50,000. This will be half of the price at which similar wheel chairs are currently sold.”
August 5, 2010
School of Engineering, Amritapuri