Disabled Vietnamese teen creates robots that help disabled patients

Suffering from polio that led to paralysis and scoliosis as a child, Tran Phan Thanh Hai, 18, was admitted to the HCM City University of Science without having to take the national high school exam.

"When Hai was 4 years old, he was walking one day, and he fell and could not stand up," Phan Thi Huynh Mai, Hai's mother, said.

The diagnosis was muscular atrophy caused by polio. Hai is only one metre tall and weighs 30kg.

Because of his weak hands, Hai cannot travel by a wheelchair himself, so every personal activity must depend on his mother.

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Although these difficulties could have ended his education, Hai never gave up and kept fighting. For 12 years of school, Hai has always been a good student and at the top of the class.

During three years as a Marie Curie High School student in HCM City, Hai won national and city-level school awards.

Earlier this year, Hai won the third prize in a national science and technology competition for high school students with a robot he designed for people with disabilities.

"This robot is used to support people and patients who are under a long treatment. Thanks to the recording of sounds and images and transferring of data via the internet, the robot can help patients continue their study and work," Hai said.

In the eighth grade, Hai realised that his mother had to always open the door while carrying him.

So Hai researched and created an internal locking system that automatically opens doors with a mobile phone. Only pre-installed phone numbers can connect with the system.

With this system, Hai won the second prize in the Creative Competition for Teenager in 2015 and the consolation prize in the 2015 National Youth Competition.

Hai's passion for automatic robots began in the eighth grade.

"At that time, a vocational teacher gave me a book about electronics, and since then robot design has fascinated me," Hai said.

"I use my laptop to design programs for robots that I want. These robots not only help me but also help other people with disabilities. More than anyone else, I understand the difficulties that people with disabilities have. That's why I want to do something to help myself and disabled people," Hai said.

"My dream is to create a robot to help the disabled in physical activities," he added.

His mother said she was happy.

"I feel comforted that he is a person full of determination and has never given up."

"His hands and legs are very weak so I will be the one to help my son to create these robots. Some days, I go to the market to buy electronic components and stay up late with him to complete the project," Mai said.

"Although there are many difficulties, I will always support him so he can make his dream come true," she said.