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Meet the students that developed a tool for those with Asperger's that won a £10,000 tech prize

Pupils at one complex needs school designed a device to help their classmates communicate better

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Pupils at one complex needs school designed a device to help their classmates communicate better

James Callan and his classmates had an idea. Many in the class at their complex needs school have Asperger Syndrome and were frustrated that they found it difficult to understand and communicate their emotions and those of others.

As a class, they decided to build something that would help. And they have received a £10,000 prize to build a prototype of their idea.

“People with Asperger Syndrome have difficulty communicating their emotions to others around them,” explains James. “They find it hard to recognise how they are feeling and why they are feeling a certain way. We created a device that can allow solutions to be put in place to enable them to manage this on a daily basis.”

The classmates, from Southlands School, Lymington, devised the tool as their entry to the Longitude Explorer Prize, set up to inspire innovation in education by challenging school students to use technology to tackle a contemporary challenge.

Helping pupils and teachers

Their entry was a badge, worn on the wrist, that changes colour to reflect the emotions of its owner. It does this based on a number of sensors that measure stress, heart rate and speech and tone emotion.

It then uses biometric and geolocation sensor information, combined with big data analysis, to track, record and analyse patterns in the user's daily life to relay how they are feeling to both pupils and teaching staff.

More than 60 teams entered the Longitude Explorer Prize. Since April, 10 finalists have worked with mentors from IBM and Digital Catapult to build prototypes that tackle everything from air pollution to childhood obesity and mental health. But the students at Southlands won the top prize and the £10,000 cheque.

“We learnt a lot about the whole process of creating a tech product, from designing and selling to marketing. We’d really like to continue developing it,” says James. 

And that’s what they intend to do. Once the prototype is finished, they hope the product will help pupils and teachers across the country.


Photo by Beth Crockatt


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