A group consisting of 3 final year mechanical engineering undergraduates from University of Moratuwa has been able to win the 1st place in “IMechE Asia Pacific Design Competition for People with Hearing Disorder” for their product the “i-belt” in the final heats which was held at Auckland, New Zealand on 30th of April 2016. This competition was organized by the IMechE UK (Institution of Mechanical Engineers) and it is a cross-region engineering design competition for university students and young engineers. The objective of the competition is to address real-world problems through engineering design projects and give solutions to challenging issues of human well-being. This time the competition challenge was to design and make an engineering solution for the people with hearing disorders.
The competition was comprised with 3 stages where in the first stage each team has to be selected and win from their respective countries to be advanced for the regional finals and winners of the each regional finals will be selected for the final heats among each regions. The solution and product of University of Moratuwa team was a lightweight wearable waist belt which they named as “i-belt” and has two main functionalities to assist hearing impaired people. This belt is comprised with a special embedded system along with array of mini microphones and mini vibrators which in first case has an inbuilt voice recognition system, capable to react for 5 selected word inputs and quickly alerting the wearer through a special pattern of vibration by picking up the accurate direction of the source sound, translates this to a vibration in the belt that corresponds to the direction of the selected sound. This selected sounds may be the name of the wearer or special words such as help, run etc... Moreover this belt also has the ability to alert the wearer for high noises in emergency situations for quick reaction like siren noise, vehicle horn, gun shooting, dog barking etc. An example situation would be where a deaf person was at risk from a vehicle behind him and the vehicle is tooting for him, the deaf person would not hear the sound normally, but the “i-belt” would vibrate and cause the wearer to look behind for vigilance and see the vehicle pointing towards him where the message is safely and timely delivered.
The team “Mavisuru” from University of Moratuwa comprising the three final year undergraduates Eranga De Silva, Hasala Sakvithi Rohanawansha and Peshan Sampath entered to the competition under the guidance and supervision of Dr. Ranjith Amarasinghe, a senior lecturer from the Mechanical Engineering Department and the preliminary rounds of the competition was held within the 3 engineering faculties of Sri Lanka where, the project from the University of Moratuwa was selected to represent Sri Lanka at the regional finals. The South Asian regional finals or the second stage of the competition was held on late November at Colombo with the participation of Indian and Pakistan contesters where the teams had to both conduct a presentation and a demonstration of the product. The Sri Lankan team from University of Moratuwa became the champions of the event and got selected to represent the South Asia region in the Asia Pacific region finals.
The final competition or the Asia Pacific heats was held at 30th of April in Callaghan Innovation Centre in Auckland, New Zealand with the participation of teams from North East Asia(Hong Kong, China) , South East Asia (Malaysia) and Southern Asia (Sri Lanka) as the winners of their respective regions.
The chief judge for the final competition was Mr. Mike Granger who was appointed for the task by Auckland Deaf Society. Profoundly deaf from the birth and working 35 years as an engineer Mr. Mike and the remaining judge panel thoroughly examined the presentations and demonstrations from each team and finally selected the product “i-belt” from “Team Mavisuru” of Sri Lanka as the wining product and team. “The ‘i-belt’ device is a great solution for Deaf people, alerting them in an emergency if there’s a loud noise, if someone is at the door, or calling their name,” Mike Granger says.
“I’ve had many near miss accidents where I didn’t realise that emergency vehicles were passing nearby, couldn’t hear my daughters calling me, or see the doorbell or smoke alarm flash at home if I was outside or in a different room. The “i-belt” solves all these things,” he says. Second and Third places went to Hong Kong for their device which would predominantly assist people to get the appropriate information whilst on public transport and to China for their filtering system to be used in an office environment.
The Sri Lankan winning team acknowledges vice chancellor Prof. Ananda Jayawardane, deputy vice chancellor Prof. Rahala Attalage, Dean of Engineering Faculty Prof. Kapila Perera and Head of the Department, Mechanical Engineering Dr. W.K. Wimalsiri for their continuous helps throughout the competition and the assistance from the Sri Lanka section of IMechE, which they believe as vital factors for their performance