Swinburne students to develop software for special needs kids

KUCHING: A team of Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus computing undergraduates are set to develop software to help caregivers monitor children with special needs.

The students were recently awarded a US$4,000 grant by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for the community service venture.

Swinburne Sarawak also approved an equivalent sum, bringing the total grant to about RM24,000.

The team hopes to devise non-intrusive, real-time activity recognition software that could alert caregivers when children with social and communication impairment displays behaviour that could endanger them and/or others such as climbing and head knocking, in an indoor environment.

It could help caregivers prevent injuries and allow them to conduct other duties in the room.


Dr Lau Bee Theng

Dr Lau Bee Theng

“Providing continual oversight is expensive and not feasible for many families, special education and healthcare institutions. Also, ICT products used, such as CCTVs, are passive. We hope to come up with software that will benefit both the children and caregivers,” said Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Science senior lecturer Dr Lau Bee Theng, who is project leader, in a press release.

“If successful, it could complement Malaysia’s healthcare system with an innovative fringe.”

The students will collaborate with a special education school in Kuching and are expected to come up with a prototype in 12 months.


They will first carry out research to see how computing and state-of-the-art sensor technology could be deployed.

Lau said that the project also allows the students to appreciate the relevance of ICT, engage with and contribute to society.

“We hope that it will inspire and kindle the interest of students in ICT as the discipline could provide solutions some of the world’s problems, like what hope to achieve here. While the grant may be small, the potential of what we can do with it is huge,” she said, adding that the team will provide regular progress updates to IEEE.

IEEE is one of the world’s largest technical professional societies and serves professionals in every aspect of electrical, electronic and computing.

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