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Tapping engineering skills for a better life



Making a difference:Members of the Social Engineering Forum in Kozhikode with the wheelchair developed by them.

A few engineering students in Kozhikode have come together under the banner of the Social Engineering Forum (SEF) to use their skills to fashion devices that can bring cheer to the crippled and the bedridden.

The forum has launched programmes aimed at tapping the latent engineering skills of young students outside their college so that they too can make a meaningful contribution to society.

The group's first endeavour is a wheelchair with novel features. It is crafted in such a way that it can help a user get on without any help, something that is not possible on most wheelchairs in the market.

Two additional features were incorporated into the wheelchair at a later stage. These enable the user to stand without outside help and use it in the toilet by opening a portion in its base.

It is also possible to incorporate into the design a stair-climbing facility. This has not been installed as it would make the wheelchair costlier.

The idea for the wheelchair germinated in the minds of ‘Team unwired,' a students' club at the National Institute of Technology-Calicut (NIT-C) which entered it in Aavishkar 2011, a contest of ideas to solve social problems, held early this year.

The device has won a lot of praise for its design and brought smiles to the faces of the beneficiaries who were shown how it works. The SEF team is on the lookout for a company that can manufacture the wheelchair in bulk.

Serious initiative

Adil Meersha of the forum says: “We see medical students launching various social initiatives… the palliative care movement in Kozhikode is a shining example of such a social service activity led by the students of professional courses. Engineering students also should make valuable contributions to society.”

Manu Thomas, another team member, says using one's skills to help others is as noble an act as donating a large sum of money. “If we donate a small part of our talent rather than wealth, it can make a significant change in society,” he says.

“There is something each individual can contribute to society. Identifying the areas where knowledge of engineering will help the common man and finding solutions that can be implemented by associating with faculty in colleges and experts in the field is crucial for the development of the nation”, he says.

The forum provides a platform to address those problems in society where technology is the answer. It identifies problems and channelizes expertise and financial assistance to arrive at a simple solution.

For solutions

The forum has sent out appeals to talented young engineers an students for addressing social problems where technology can make a difference. Some of these problems have been identified as vermi-compost plant that will not need much attention; a method to separate plastic waste from organic waste in waste heaps; a method to remove printing ink from newspaper so that it can be reused to make good quality paper; a method to manage kitchen waste effectively in households; and an efficient and feasible method to harness solar energy.

Its upcoming programmes include a visit to Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, to repair damaged wheelchairs and taking up a mentorship programme to render financial and technical help to a few students for studies after Class X. The beneficiaries will be chosen after a written test.

The forum has received a request from the Puthupadi panchayat to take up electrification of the Ghat Road to Wayanad. This project will include identification of an alternative energy source for electricity, a traffic control system, and beautification of viewpoints on road.

R. Madhavan Nair

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