Girls rule the youth category at AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards

The BT Young Pioneers award finalist line up for AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards 2017 comprises three young women and one young man.

Last year, the finalist selection saw ten young men make the Young Pioneers list. It was eventually won by three Year 10 male students from Newbury with their eWATERPay creation, designed to support clean water technology in West Africa. 

The 32 AbilityNet finalists 2017 on stage at BT Tower

This year's finalist selection includes two year 10 pupils from Killian’s College in Northern Ireland, Kiera McKillop and Sinead McKeown, who've created Dyslexic Aid, a multi-sensory learning technology which assists children with dyslexia.

“They have used their technical knowledge, skills and enthusiasm to design and make a device that helps children who are struggling to learn because of dyslexia,” said Sean Connolly, the girls' teacher from their college in Northern Ireland.

"Girls are just as good as boys"

“Their achievement shows other young people how digital technology can be used to solve everyday day problems in a fun and exciting way. And, it also shows that girls are just as good as boys, when it comes to using technology to help others,” he added. 

Kiera and Sinead created the Dyslexic Aid with a very limited budget, by using a Raspberry Pi computer. Researching their prototype, the students worked closely with a group of dyslexic children and their special educational needs coordinator.

They used Python to programme the aid, liaising with experts at the University of Ulster in Jordan’s Town and the British Dyslexic Association.

The Dyslexic Aid brings together all this research. It creates a multi-sensory learning environment stimulating a person’s different senses to help them learn. The aid is designed to help dyslexic pupils better understand the alphabet, write letters and spell basic words.

Raspberry Pi and Sense Hat

After analysing their own data and data from other dyslexia organisations, they designed and made a working prototype using a Raspberry Pi Computer and a Sense Hat (an add-on board, that includes a range of different sensors and flashing LED lights).

The innovative device allows users to see letters, hear them, write them and say them. The Dyslexic Aid has incredible potential, believe the judges.

At the moment, it’s still a prototype and in need more development to make it more useable and comfortable to hold and suitable for different age groups, but these dedicated young people are working hard to make this a reality.

TeenTech Wearable Tech Winner

Joining them in the young finalists category is 15-year-old Alexandria Gyford, who recently won a 'wearable tech" prize at the National TeenTech Awards 2016.

The teenager has created wearable tech called the Bra with Benefits designed to identify early stage breast cancer before any outward signs are visible.

Alexandria is driven by a desire to make a difference, and experienced first-hand the impact of breast cancer in her own family. As part of the process she’s worked with leading scientists in the US and UK to validate and develop her ideas and designs.

“I am dyslexic – when I was eight I couldn’t read or write. I was inspired to take part in the TeenTech Awards by some girls in the year above me,” says Alexandria. She recently addressed 150 Year eight and nine pupils on International Women’s Day to share her story and is pursuing the further development of her product while working towards her GCSEs.

Their category is completely by 13-year-old, Joshua Lowe of EduBlocks, who is passionate about programming teaches coding to young children across the UK.

Tech4Good Africa and AbilityNet Accessibility Awards

Overall there are 32 finalists, across eight categories, including the coveted AbilityNet Accessibility Award and this year the Comic Relief Tech4Good for Africa Award for the very first time.

The final awards event at BT Centre on 11 July will also see a Special Award for excellence in accessibility, which was originally given to Professor Stephen Hawking.

One of the winners each year also receives a People's Award, given by public vote rather than our expert judging panel. 

Finalists in the accessibility award category for the Tech4Good Awards 2017 are AutonoMe, which enables people with learning disabilities to do tasks such as vacuum cleaning, by point their tech tablet/iPad at a vacuum clear to get a video on how to use it.

Next is Bristol Braille, which has created braille E-readers, Optikey, an open-source assistive on-screen keyboard which can be operated by people with certain disabilities using eye-gaze technology and finally Samsung Smart TV completes the list. 

See the full list of finalists in the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards, supported by BT, here.