And the fu­ture’s in good hands

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - MARTINA SIMOS

AT the age of 11, Michael Zhang has al­ready jet­ted off to Paris to present his lat­est inventions – to an au­di­ence which in­cluded Spain’s Queen Sofia.

The Year 6 stu­dent at­tended the an­nual Global So­cial Busi­ness Sum­mit 2017 af­ter win­ning the Na­tional Prize for So­cial En­tre­pre­neur­ial Inventions at the Royal Ade­laide Show.

At the sum­mit Michael pre­sented two inventions – a Wi-Fi fish feeder de­signed by him and a sim­ple elec­tronic trap for grasshop­pers (the Lo­cust Feast de­sign) where he led a team of peers.

But it was his mov­ing speech on why he de­signs inventions which stole the lime­light from all the VIPs who at­tended and earned the East Mar­den Pri­mary School stu­dent a kiss from Queen Sofia.

The elec­tronic trap for grasshop­pers has been ac­cepted as a ma­jor ini­tia­tive for im­pov­er­ished young peo­ple in Cameroon, Africa, and Michael de­scribed how their lives have changed from earn­ing $2 a day pick­ing co­coa fruits to cod­ing mi­crochips.

“Sadly the chil­dren are so poor they have never tasted choco­late,’’ he told the au­di­ence. “We teach them (cod­ing) us­ing Skype or Face­time. They earn more money from mak­ing and sell­ing the (elec­tronic) kits so that they don’t need to work in the co­coa farm. They can go to school and learn more STEM in­ven­tion skills.’’ The Felixs­tow young­ster who has at­tended the Science Tech­nol­ogy En­gi­neer­ing Maths So­cial En­ter­prise Learn­ing (STEMSEL) in­ven­tors’ club since the age of eight, says the idea stemmed from learn­ing about agri­cul­tural prob­lems at school.

“My friends in Cameroon told us that lo­custs were a ma­jor prob­lem and dam­ag­ing the crops,’’ he told the Sun­day Mail. “I de­cided it would be a good idea to build a de­vice to help farm­ers in Cameroon pro­tect their crops from lo­custs.

“I se­lected my team of four (class­mates) and their names are Daniel Lee, So­phie Ha­likiopou­los, Vic­tor Chey and my­self as team leader and de­signer.’’

His en­thu­si­asm for elec­tron­ics and inventions has en­cour­aged other stu­dents to have a go and a STEMSEL club was started at the school this year.

“I’ve made the Wi-Fi Fish Feeder, which helps to feed your fish when you go on hol­i­day,’’ he says. “My other inventions are the Care on the Go Wrist­bell, which helps nurs­ing home res­i­dents to de­tect body tem­per­a­tures to keep them safe. All the projects we do at STEMSEL are re­lated to the aim of help­ing the poor to make money so that they get an ed­u­ca­tion.’’

MY ROYAL AP­POINT­MENT: SA school­boy Michael Zhang dis­cusses his in­ven­tion with am­bas­sador Bren­dan Berne in the Aus­tralian Em­bassy, Paris, above, and meets Queen Sofia, inset be­low.

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