Bright young things go robotic

Some of our most gifted school students have experienced first hand the interaction between the human body and machine at a holiday workshop at UNSW.

Gerric inside

School students have been hooked up to machines to play computer games, as part of a holiday workshop for gifted children.

The students participated in a new workshop called "Human body meets machine", which was part of the summer holiday program run by the Gifted Education Research Resource and Information Centre (GERRIC) at UNSW.

The machines read the electrical signals made naturally when muscles are used. In this case, students flexed their arm muscles. The computer recorded and interpreted the signals, then moved the figure in the computer game as a result.

"The interaction between the human body and machines is a really big area of research," said Dr Stephen Redmond, a lecturer in the School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, who took the class. "It's really important in terms of improving robotics, prostheses or helping improve the lives of limb amputees."

"It was really fun playing the game," said 14-year-old Amy Chang from Year 9 at North Sydney Girls' High School. "It was much harder than I thought to do it - but we got it in the end."

Fifteen-year-old James Sewell from Bathurst High School has been coming to GERRIC programs since he was in primary school and said he enjoyed this workshop the most.

"GERRIC's holiday programs are truly a gift to gifted students," says Professor Miraca Gross, Director of GERRIC, which is part of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

"They allow very bright young people to work on material that really challenges them with other young people who have similar abilities and interests. For many gifted students, that opportunity is simply not available in school. Here at UNSW they can allow their minds to soar, and many make friendships that last for years."

Almost 700 young people - from as young as four years through to 16 years of age - gave up part of their holidays to attend classes at UNSW. There are 60 different workshops on offer throughout the year, 20 of which are being offered for the first time.

The Scientia Challenge for students between the ages of 12 and 16 is supported by McDonalds.

For more on the GERRIC programs go to the website.

Media contact: Susi Hamilton | 9385 1583 | susi.hamilton@unsw.edu.au