'She wanted to find ways to help': 5-year-old girl bags first prize at invention contest with GPS necklace for the blind

'She wanted to find ways to help': 5-year-old girl bags first prize at invention contest with GPS necklace for the blind
PHOTO: Stemie Advantages

SINGAPORE – Five-year-old Renee Hairiyanto saw a blind man get into an accident when he could not hear the beeping sound at a traffic light due to road noise.

In May this year, Renee was walking home from pre-school when she witnessed the accident. This led her to ask her parents, Mr Hairiyanto and Madam Siti Qadriyah, questions about why the incident occurred and what she could do to help.

Madam Siti, 33, said: “Renee was very concerned and wanted to find ways to help.”

The pre-schooler has now come up with a device to assist visually impaired people in their day-to-day activities. It won first prize in the kindergarten category in a competition.

Her invention, Renee’s Necklace for the Blind, can be worn around the neck, giving directions through its GPS function, and alerting its user via sensors when there is danger.

Renee was among more than 100 young inventors who showcased their ideas to solve real-world issues at the Pratt & Whitney Invention Convention (PWSIC) held at Temasek Polytechnic (TP) on Nov 22-23.

The competition, which was jointly organised by Stemie Advantages and TP and held in tandem with the convention, showcased the ingenuity of 116 students aged five to 19 from Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. They came from more than 15 schools and submitted 80 inventions.

Participants in the annual competition combine the application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles with invention and entrepreneurship. Topics this year included sustainability, the pandemic and accessibility. 

Another winner, Naomi Eden Tsukasoshi, took top spot in the Primary 1 and 2 category with her invention “GrowShoes” – footwear that can grow along with her rapidly growing feet – to encourage sustainability and waste reduction.

This came after she outgrew her favourite pair of shoes within three months of getting them, making her realise how many shoes she had bought and discarded over the years.

“The process was difficult, and I felt frustrated when I did not know how to get to the next step, but this whole process taught me to never give up,” the seven-year-old said.

A modular system that fits into a bag to help students optimise space and a foldable contraption that acts as an extended desk to increase efficiency while doing work at home drew recognition for Ezekiel Lee, 12, in the Primary 5 and 6 category and Tay Shi Yi, 10, in the Primary 3 and 4 category respectively.

The Pratt & Whitney Sustainability Champion Award was given to Madeline Chelsie Tin, 14, and Marcello Yeremia Sihite, 14, from Indonesia.

Their invention, Filter Born, was created to tackle carbon emissions by using the Cananga plant as an environmentally friendly filter.

Ms Nancy Soon, co-organiser convention and founder of Stemie Advantages, said the competition helps the students to develop life skills necessary for success as they become better at critical thinking, inventive thinking and resilience.

“Focusing on the process instead of the outcome is important to build resilience and will inspire students to keep trying. I want students to know that it is okay to fail, it is okay to not know, but it is not okay to not try,” she added.

TP, which has been a strong supporter of the event over the years, took on the role of knowledge partner this year.

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“TP believes in nurturing tomorrow’s thinkers, leaders and creators with a strong sense of curiosity and the capacity to think outside the box. Aligned with our tagline ‘Creating Tomorrow’, we believe in partnering industry and the community to support the development of these young minds so that they will grow to be tomorrow’s innovators”, said Mr Tan Poy Boon, deputy director, research & technology development.

Said Mr Yogesh Farswani, regional vice-president, Asia-Pacific customer business, Pratt & Whitney: “We believe that innovation drives progress. We are determined to support our next generation to succeed and go beyond.”

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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