Scots schoolgirl's invention to help baby sister walk wins national award
A Scottish mini-inventor has designed an award-winning device to help her sister walk – and it could be brought to life thanks to some budding students.
Olivia Thompson, from Bothwell, South Lanarkshire, and her St Bride’s Primary classmates Evie Anderson, Nuala Maria McKnight, and Ellie Lappin are behind The Cloud Walker – their entry for the first Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre (DHI) primary school #DigiInventors Challenge.
Described as an ‘upgraded walker for children with cerebral palsy’, the device – still at the design stage – includes an iPad with apps to help youngsters ‘learn, walk, and exercise all at once’.
Olivia, 11, was inspired by her sister Gabriella who has cerebral palsy. The group of incurable, lifelong conditions, caused by brain development issues, affect mobility and coordination. Gabriella, three, was diagnosed with the condition after she was born prematurely at 31 weeks, and now has difficulty moving her legs and receives physiotherapy.
“Gabriella loves to dance but she struggles to walk, she sort of bunny hops to move about,” Olivia said.
“If nobody tries to help children with cerebral palsy they won’t be able to get around places in life. I feel proud that we had the chance to create something that could help make walking and physio sessions more fun and interactive.”
Under the tagline, ‘reach for the clouds’, the gadget's apps would provide stretching exercises, memory games, drawing activities and more. Some only work when the child moves the walker.
The P7 classmates created a video presentation for their invention which was entered into the DHI #DigiInventors Challenge earlier this year. Entrants were invited to present ideas inspired by health care challenges that could be transformed into a digital health and care solution.
Judges crowned The Cloud Walker the 2023 winner and City of Glasgow College engineering students may now make it into a working prototype.
“I am amazed that we won,” Olivia added.
“When our headteacher announced it, I’d never seen my friends so happy. We worked on it for weeks, I can’t believe we were chosen.”
The pupils have also appealed for a ‘designer and marketing company’ to get plans for The Cloud Walker off the ground – and Olivia is determined to take matters into her own hands.
“If it doesn’t get invented I will try to make it happen when I’m older, it’s important to help children with cerebral palsy, like my sister.”
Nobody is more delighted than Olivia’s parents, Aileen, 39 and Steven, 40. The dentists also share a middle child, eight-year-old Philip.
“I am extremely proud of Olivia and her friends,” Aileen said.
“It’s probably the achievement of hers that I am most proud of. Both Olivia and Philip are so good at taking care of their sister.”
The Thompsons watched on as the girls picked up their prizes at a special awards ceremony at City of Glasgow College on April 18.
Some 67 applications were submitted from a number of primary schools from across Scotland for the first-ever #DigiInventors Challenge, and judges praised the standard of entries across the board.
George Crooks OBE, Chief Executive at Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre, said: “The DigiInventors challenge has proven a real catalyst to unlock the potential of our younger pupils to create digital supported solutions to real life problems and hopefully create a long-lasting interest in digital health and care as a possible future career. We were presented with many good examples of real digital innovation. Congratulations to all participants this year and in particular to our worthy winners.”
Roy Gardner, Vice Principal Corporate Development and Innovation at City of Glasgow College said: "Huge congratulations to all the finalists and winners of the first #DigiInventors Challenge Primary School Edition. This competition not only showcases the huge level of innovation and creativity within our young people, but it also reinforces City of Glasgow College’s commitment to let learning flourish.
“We were delighted to host this special celebration and would like to thank our partners at the Digital Health and Care Innovation Centre for providing the opportunity to collaborate on this great initiative. The possibility of this year’s winning entry being developed by our students is an exciting prospect, and we look forward to supporting the next steps, as well as more innovation through many more DigiInventors challenges to come.”
Lead judge, Gillian Reilly, Primary Science, STEM and Sustainability Development Officer, South Lanarkshire Council/ RAiSE, said: “The judging of this challenge was not easy. It was inspiring to see our younger learners make real-life links to digital health and care solutions and STEM learning, showing a great amount of skill, creativity and imagination in their designs. All young people should be very proud of what they achieved.”
Darren Tobin, EMEA Channel Director, Sphero, said: "We are honoured to have been able to contribute to such a worthwhile event," said Darren Tobin. "The ideas that were shared at DigiInventors have the potential to make a real difference in people's lives, and we are excited to see where they will lead."
The #DigiInventors Challenge opened to secondary schools in 2017 and primary schools in 2023, in partnership with Digital Health and Care Innovation Centre, Raising Aspirations in Science Education, City of Glasgow College and Sphero.
Full List of Winners
|Pupil name||Idea||School||School stage||Status|
|Evie Anderson||Cloud Walker||St. Bride's Primary||P7||Primary 7 Winner|
|Nuala Maria McKnight||Cloud Walker||St. Bride's Primary||P7||Primary 7 Winner|
|Olivia Thompson||Cloud Walker||St. Bride's Primary||P7||Primary 7 Winner|
|Ellie Lappin||Cloud Walker||St. Bride's Primary||P7||Primary 7 Winner|
|Ruby McWilliams||A Friend in Me||Mearns Primary||P6||Primary 6 Winner|
|Zoe Smith||A Friend in Me||Mearns Primary||P6||Primary 6 Winner|
|Jack Fellows||Our App||King's Park Primary||P5/ 6||Primary 5/ 6 Winner|
|Emilie Boyle||Our App||King's Park Primary||P5/ 6||Primary 5/ 6 Winner|
|Kayla Wishart||Our App||King's Park Primary||P5/ 6||Primary 5/ 6 Winner|
|Jay Young||Our App||King's Park Primary||P5/ 6||Primary 5/ 6 Winner|
|Olive Culley||Joyfully||Busby Primary School||P6||Runner Up|
|Israa Arshad||Joyfully||Busby Primary School||P6||Runner Up|
|Eva McKinnie||Joyfully||Busby Primary School||P6||Runner Up|
|Kara Dunn||Refreshing Minds||St. Bride's Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Kyla Fallon||Refreshing Minds||St. Bride's Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Ethan Linton||Refreshing Minds||St. Bride's Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Austin Walker||Refreshing Minds||St. Bride's Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Alan Tang||Team Smile||Merchiston Castle||P7||Runner Up|
|Stepan Mikulich||Team Smile||Merchiston Castle||P7||Runner Up|
|William Ross||Team Smile||Merchiston Castle||P7||Runner Up|
|Cataleya Barrie||Arthritis Heroes||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Sophie Bruche||Arthritis Heroes||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Aadam Malik||Arthritis Heroes||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Fareedah Yussuf||ASG||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Alexa Ford||ASG||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Faye Muldoon||ASG||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Adam Tortolano||Poka Watch||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Kaliq Rafiddi||Poka Watch||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Oliver Dean||Poka Watch||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Paul Rolfe||Poka Watch||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Amy Munro||Take A Breath||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Rebecca Bellew||Take A Breath||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Huwwa Abid||Dyslexia Wizard||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Lilly Currie||Dyslexia Wizard||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Sophie da Silva||Dyslexia Wizard||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Maya Ali||Dyslexia Wizard||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Jonathan Crosbie||JY Pillow||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|
|Yusuf Aatif||JY Pillow||Mearns Primary||P7||Runner Up|