Socially Relevant Engineering Projects by MIEM HSE Students
Explaining how robots work by means of a video game; teaching children to count by means of a smartphone; and teaching a mechanical prosthesis to ‘think’ by means of processing brain signals – these tasks are very different in technical terms. But all three have been solved by HSE students as part of their engineering projects and have helped to improve lives.
The projects described below were developed at the HSE Laboratory of 3D Imaging and Computer Graphics.
ARIGRID, a 3D robot construction kit, is a student project by Petr Tsygikalo, Alexey Zaitsev, and Ruslan Abdusalamov, aimed at teaching school children about robotic engineering. This is in fact a video game, where, instead of looking for treasures or controlling magical characters, the user can build a quadcopter programming model. They choose what happens if a certain button is pressed and record the command in Python language or in flowcharts. As a result, as the user learns to control the engine to make the blades move and quadcopter fly, they are also learning about algorithms and programming. The developers consider this to be an alternative to the expensive robotic engineering kit by LEGO. It will be particularly useful at schools which can’t spend several hundred thousand roubles on kits for the whole class. It is also a favourable option for those who create online courses in robotic engineering. The main competitive advantages of the kit are its feasibility (the game can be launched on a home computer), vivid modern design, and comprehensive approach to teaching.
Daria Smuseva, student of the master’s programme ‘Computer Systems and Networks’, is improving her Bachelor’s project – a software for teaching school children based on augmented reality (AR) technology. She studied the data on the use of smartphones by children and concluded that gadgets can be excellent teaching aids. AR technology turns learning into a game and facilitates memorization. The first version of the mobile app helps toddlers learn to count and remember the Russian alphabet. To start learning, parents need to download and print out special flashcards that free to access. When a child turns the smartphone camera, for example, on digit 4, an interactive button labelled ‘Press’ appears. A basket appears on the display, with painted apples ‘flying out’ of it, accompanied by vocalized counting. The project has been presented at various S & T conferences in Russia, as well as at Information Innovative Technologies, I2T–2017, in Prague. Daria has now begun the master’s programme and will update the app using new computer technologies. Apple has issued the ARKit library, which will make marker-based software development tools easier to use.
A team of students from MIEM HSE School of Computer Engineering – Georgy Klenevsky, Artem Avdeev, Alexander Bondarevsky, and Pavel Kolesnik – are developing an electromechanical hand prosthesis. They are using neurointerface and feedback technologies, enabling a disabled person to intuitively control the prosthesis. The students considered the experience of Russian and international engineers in developing the technology. Firstly, most of the models don’t provide feedback. The user doesn’t feel what they are touching and can’t control the grip strength. Secondly, it’s hard to get used to the prosthesis due to complicated control. The issue of price is also important: the most comfortable bionic models cost about 2 million roubles.
The students have solved the problem of high cost with their digital technology. They printed most of the details on a 3D printer; Arduino indicators will provide ‘sensitivity’ and functionality for the prosthesis; and a neurointerface – system of data exchange between the brain and digital devices – will control the artificial hand. ‘The process of prosthesis creation is rather simple: firstly, the customer takes several photos of their injured extremity at home. Then, our expert downloads the photos and, using 3D software, models the key elements of the future hand’, explained Artem Avdeev, the project engineer. ‘Once the hand has been assembled and has passed all the necessary tests, we will visit the customer to help them install and learn to use the new device’. The team is also planning to open a service centre and tech support in order to teach customers to use their prostheses. Thanks to the Armensky S & T Conference of Students and Young Professionals, the project made it to the finals of UMNIK, a government programme which supports innovations.