How innovative engineering students are helping kids

PROTOTYPE: Students Nicka Mateo, Tahlilah Pep, and Doris Xiriha will unveil a prototype that will help individuals with cerebral palsy, like Isaac, write between the lines at the Mackay Hackathon open day on July 23 at CQUni Mackay's Ooralea Campus.
PROTOTYPE: Students Nicka Mateo, Tahlilah Pep, and Doris Xiriha will unveil a prototype that will help individuals with cerebral palsy, like Isaac, write between the lines at the Mackay Hackathon open day on July 23 at CQUni Mackay's Ooralea Campus. contributed

ISAAC Butler has cerebral palsy. As such, his hand grip is weak and often he experiences uncontrollable movements.

Because of this, Isaac, 9, finds it hard to write between the lines. Unfortunately, this also makes him unable to sit the written annual Naplan (National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy) test that assesses the skills of every school student.

Without undergoing Naplan testing, Isaac will find it difficult to progress through the grades.

To address this issue, a team of CQUni Mackay engineering students has joined forces to create a device that will assist Isaac - and other special-needs people who require help to write between the lines - to overcome this issue.

On Sunday Nicka Mateo, Tahlilah Pep and Doris Xiriha will unveil their prototype at the Assistive Devices Hackathon at CQUni Mackay's Ooralea Campus.

The Hackathon (an innovative Queensland Government advanced manufacturing program) was created to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities and increase their independence, mobility and choices.

Doris describes Isaac as "a determined and charismatic little boy”.

"If we can do a good job and create something that helps Isaac and many others, we have the potential to change lives; this is an amazing experience,” she said.

This event spans three locations - Mackay, Toowoomba and Townsville - and coincides with the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Isaac is one of four Mackay residents who will have their needs addressed by Hackathon teams.

David Conway is keen to see the creation of a wheelchair pedometer come to fruition. He's also working with a second Hackathon team to create a device that will allow vision-impaired individuals to read fine print.

Ross Davidson, who "prefers a good book over an electronic one”, is working with his team to create a page-turning device to enable those without hand mobility to read books.

And Gary Matthews is seeking an apparatus that will allow a wheelchair-bound person to clean the blades of a fan.

Hackathon events are the latest in a $420M Advance Queensland suite of programs designed to create knowledge-based jobs of the future.

Hackathon team members will spend about two months taking part in pre-event workshops to brainstorm ideas and innovations, with the three-day main event - the Mackay Hackathon - taking place on July 21-23.

The team with the best concept will receive support to further develop their ideas and potentially commercialise their technology.

CQUni Mackay is honoured to host this event and we are incredibly proud to have our engineering students taking part in it.

Social innovation is at the core of our strategic vision and for many years has been entrenched in our core values.

At CQUni, we strive to empower our staff and students to make a difference, create an impact and influence the world in which we live, for the betterment of society.

The Hackathon will no doubt improve the lives of people with disabilities in regional Queensland and potentially worldwide; and we are grateful for the opportunity to both support and take part in such an incredibly powerful and socially innovative initiative.

The Assistive Devices Hackathon presentation day on July 23 is open to the public and free of charge. The event will take place at CQUni Mackay's Engineering building (number 24 on Ooralea Campus) from 2-4.30pm.

To register to attend the event, email adhackathons@



Professor, CQ University

Topics:  cerebral palsy cquni cquni mackay engineering students cquniversity mackay hackathon naplan national disability insurance scheme ndis technology

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