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South Auckland students use design thinking to innovate for inclusion


Dr Siouxsie Wiles MNZM is an award-winning microbiologist and science communicator based in Auckland.

OPINION: A couple of months ago, I wrote about Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow competition. This global initiative challenges kids in Years 5-10 to use design-thinking and STEAM – science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics – to identify an issue that’s important to them and/or their community and have a go at creating a solution.

In New Zealand, Samsung has partnered with Motat – the Museum of Transport and Technology – to run the competition and for the last two years I’ve had the privilege of being one of the judges.

I was so inspired by the solutions our young people came up with to try to solve some really important challenges. This year, a team from Howick College – Eva Malez, Htet Waiyan, Lennox Dilworth and Kurt Marshall – won first prize for their prototype breathalyser that measures glucose levels via the ketones in your breath.

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Their aim is for it to replace the need for diabetics to have to monitor their blood glucose levels by making their fingers bleed.

Last year’s winner, Drew Kenny, created the world’s first ‘Parkinson’s Belt’ to help her granddad get quick access to his medication, water, and support alarm.

But today I want to tell you about ‘Kitchen Tools Reimagined’, the fantastic project which won second place in this year’s Solve for Tomorrow competition.

A group of students at Mount Richmond Special School in Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland, have come up with innovative ways to help a fellow student who is visually impaired and only able to use one of her hands to be able to participate in cooking classes (Stock photo).

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A group of students at Mount Richmond Special School in Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland, have come up with innovative ways to help a fellow student who is visually impaired and only able to use one of her hands to be able to participate in cooking classes (Stock photo).

Mount Richmond Special School in Ōtāhuhu, South Auckland, caters for learners who need high levels of specialist support. One of the students, Renee, is visually impaired and able to use only one of her hands. That means she couldn’t take part in cooking classes.

So, a group of students, including Mata Tipoki, Joshua Hoskin, Lily So’e, Julie Sene, Adam Lovey, Farhaan Ali and Patrick Lemoe, asked themselves: could they design a knife that would allow Renee to join in the fun of cooking class?

They started by thinking about the challenge of trying to cut something when you can only use one hand. Imagine it. If you can only hold the knife, how do you stop what you are cutting from bouncing around or rolling away? And if you can’t see where the knife is, how do you know you are cutting in the right place?

Dr Siouxsie Wiles: Using design-thinking and STEAM, the team created a range of different prototypes to try.

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Dr Siouxsie Wiles: Using design-thinking and STEAM, the team created a range of different prototypes to try.

Using design-thinking and STEAM, Joshua, Adam, Julie and their classmates created a range of prototypes to try. Then with feedback from Renee and others, they refined their design. The result is a reimagined knife and chopping block that is safe for people with disabilities to use.

I think the students at Mount Richmond Special School are a shining example of how science, engineering and design-thinking are for everyone. I really hope they get their design into production, as there are so many people around the world who could benefit.

The 2023 Solve for Tomorrow competition opens in May, so if you’ve a young person in your life who is in Years 5-10, why not encourage them to start thinking about entering? With the long summer holidays just around the corner, they’ll soon have plenty of time on their hands!



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