Cerebral palsy aid wins coveted technology prize

sunday-driverAn innovative game designed by a team of Flinders University students to help children with cerebral palsy has won first place in the prestigious South Australian iAwards.

School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics students Matthew Kuckhahn, Jingyu Liu, Yao Dai, Yongqun Yu and Yun Chen, who have now all graduated, took out the Tertiary Student Project category at the State iAwards earlier this month for the design and development of their Sunday Driver computer game.

Created in 2011 as part of the team’s final year project, Sunday Driver provides a platform to entertain, engage and potentially assist in the rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy (CP).

The haptic game requires players to manoeuvre a truck through various virtual worlds using a specially-designed joystick, dodging obstacles and collecting coins to advance to the next level.

There are five stages, each with different terrains and varying degrees of difficulty, with obstacles including rocks, trees and flying objects.

The novel game was designed as part of a combined course linking the Digital Technical Media Project, the Information Technology Project, the Computer Science Project and the Engineering Science Project, which is delivered by topic coordinator and lecturer Dr Denise de Vries.

It will now be included in a trial next year as part of a PhD by fellow Flinders lecturer and rehabilitation engineer David Hobbs.

Mr Hobbs, a Fulbright Professional Scholar and Churchill Fellow, said he would trial Sunday Driver and a series of other games his team has developed in the homes of children with CP to test the value of haptic gaming as a possible therapeutic intervention.

“When the player makes a move within the game they get feedback by way of vibrations to their hands,” Mr Hobbs said.

“We’re hoping that the more the children play the games, the more they’ll learn to notice the sensations their hands are experiencing,” he said.

“It’s about helping them to make the connection between what their hands are feeling, what they are seeing and what the brain is doing in terms of processing information.”
Mr Kuckhahn, who is now completing his honours degree in IT at Flinders, said he was delighted with the team’s achievements.

“I had a lot of faith in the project and I was really happy with the way it turned out but to win an award is fantastic,” Mr Kuckhahn said.

“David asked us to build something fun and engaging, and I think we met the design brief.”

The team will now represent SA at the national iAwards, which will be announced at a gala event in Melbourne on August 9, with the national winners going on to compete among the world’s best innovators at the Asia Pacific ICT Awards, to be held in Brunei in December.

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