“Some designers like to explore different possibilities with conceptual designs, but I prefer to design products that can actually have an influence on people’s lives.”
That is how Yang Zou, a graduate from the Department of Industrial Design at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, described his attitude about design.
He and students Yanhao Jin from the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering and Xiaocheng Wang from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering designed a rehabilitation and training device for elderly stroke patients.
pictured above from left to right: Dr Jie Sun, Yang Zou, Yanhao Jin and Xiaocheng Wang
An earlier version of the device, completed for Zou’s Final Year Project, was presented along with other design work by XJTLU students at the Designing Interactive Systems conference that took place at The School of Design of Hong Kong Polytechnic University earlier this year.
A new updated version of the device made with contributions from all three students won the PROXXON Innovation Award at the third session of the Cross-Strait Youth Maker Competition in Shanghai.
Dr Jie Sun from the Department of Industrial Design, supervisor of Zou’s earlier project and adviser to the winning the team, said: “This award, given by precision tool company PROXXON, recognises the feasibility and commercial prospects of the product our students designed.”
Their Interactive Upper Limb Training Device is used to exercise the fingers, wrists, and arms. The initial design idea and the impetus for Zou’s earlier Final Year Project came when Dr Sun pointed out that in the future rehabilitation and training devices would be more and more important.
“When I observed the devices in the hospitals I found most of them have a single function and are poorly designed,” said Zou. “Elderly patients are quite negative about using them, and their rehabilitation therapists have to push them to use them. Some devices are too big and are unsuitable for home use.
“I applied computer-human interaction principles to the design in order to help patients be more active and autonomous in exercising,” he said. “What’s more, the product is portable and low-cost, so that it would be convenient for patients to use for exercise at home.”
Despite its inclusion at DIS 2018, Zou was unsatisfied with his Final Year Project version, feeling he needed more assistance with programming and hardware design. Dr Sun recommended he contact students from other departments.
After a recruitment and selection process, Yanhao Jin from the BSc Information and Computing Science programme and Xiaocheng Wang from BEng Electric Engineering stood out, and the three of them formed a team with Dr Sun as supervisor.
Yang Zou took responsibility for function and shape design, Yanhao Jin for software and programming, Xiaocheng Wang for hardware and circuit soldering, and Dr Sun for problem solving and technical guidance.
To improve patients’ interaction with the device, they designed audible and visual indicators on the buttons so that patients can obtain direct feedback when they exercise their fingers.
On the top of the device there are coloured lights corresponding to the sensors installed on a paper surface. When the patient moves to the position with the right colour the device will give out audio and visual feedback.
This was the first time the three students had had such deep collaboration with students from other programmes, and there was some friction among the team members because of the varied angles of seeing problems.
Yet for the students, communicating with staff and students from other programmes was a more precious experience than winning the award:
“Such interdisciplinary cooperation will be quite common when we go to work in the future, but we don’t collaborate enough with students from other programmes during our studies. I learned to think in different ways through this cooperation,” said Yanhao Jin.
By Qiuchen Hu; photos and video provided by Yang Zou
Translated by Boqiang Xiao; edited by Guojuan Wang and Danny Abbasi