Device to guide autistic children brings honours to UAE student

Arjun has been representing the UAE national team in the World Robotic Olympiad since 2011. Having to care for a determined child, especially an autistic one, is a Herculean task for any caregiver because of the constant guidance and monitoring required. Hence, when Arjun Bhorkar, 16, spent some days volunteering at Manzil Centre in Sharjah observing the children, he thought of creating a device that would guide autistic children step-by-step towards performing daily tasks independently.



And his efforts paid off when Arjun was honoured with the Creative Innovator Award for Healthcare at the Global Innovation Summit held recently in Dubai under the ‘Best Innovation for Healthcare’ category.

“I noticed that the children were wary of someone shadowing them all the time,” the Grade 11 student at The Millennium School told Khaleej Times.

“Many had problems performing simple everyday tasks such as opening doors. Since all door handles are different, they would get confused. Others could not operate machinery such as a microwave or washing machine,” he said.”

Arjun then created a wearable device called Aura that works with a radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader that, once scanned over an object, plays a tutorial video that serves as a guide showing how to perform the activity – everything from opening a door to operating a washing machine.

The technology used in this is the same one being used in NoL cards. “It is easier for the children to follow picture instructions, therefore my focus was only that,” he said.”

In the testing phase, Arjun installed the device on one door and a microwave at the centre. “And it worked very well. The children just need to point the device towards the reader and the instructions would pop up.”

Over time and due to constant usage, the children learn the basic steps and become independent, he added. “I believe autistic people are equally capable as everyone else, and can become proficient through practice.”

Arjun has been representing the UAE national team in the World Robotic Olympiad since 2011. Last year, he helped the team secure a third position among the 96 participating countries.

The Creative Innovator Awards are distributed across six categories according to Dubai’s Strategic Objectives – Innovation in Education, Healthcare, Retail, Business Growth, Sustainability and Public Good. The winners are offered complete incubation support through development of the project.

by Asma Ali Zain (City Editor)/Dubai


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