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Cousins win national BHP science award for smartwatch that looks after nan

Anne Mather, February 7, 2019 3:20PM Mercury

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Mitchell Torok and his great-grandmother, Gwen Brook, who is wearing the aWear smartwatch invention. Picture: Luke Bowden media_cameraMitchell Torok and his great-grandmother, Gwen Brook, who is wearing the aWear smartwatch invention. Picture: Luke Bowden


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Two young Tasmanians have taken out a top national science award for their hi-tech invention, designed to keep one of the inventors’ great-grandmother safe.

The 18-year-old cousins, Isaac Brain and Mitchell Torok, have won equal first place in the engineering* section of the BHP science and engineering awards.

The pair, who finished Year 12 last year, created a smartwatch-style device that can detect whether an elderly person has fallen and trigger an alarm.

The device will now be showcased* on the world stage at a science and engineering fair in Arizona, US, that brings together students from around the world who are first-place science winners.

BHP Foundation Science and Engineering Awards winners Isaac Brain and Mitchell Torok. media_cameraBHP Foundation Science and Engineering Awards winners Isaac Brain and Mitchell Torok.

Mitchell, who went to Rosny College, Hobart, said he dreamt up the idea because he was worried about his 89-year-old great-grandmother Gwen Brook, who lives in an independent* apartment next to an aged-care facility* in Hobart.

“If she falls over and hurts herself, there’s a chance no one would be able to find her quickly,” Mitchell said.

“So we decided to build a cheap and easy device that aged-care residents could wear.”

Called “aWear”, the device can be worn as a watch, brooch* or lanyard*. It links to a database* that can send a real-time text message to nurses. As well as an alert button, the device also features an “accelerometer” that measures the speed of a wearer’s movement to detect a fall.

Gwen Brook wearing the aWear invention. Picture: Luke Bowden media_cameraGwen Brook wearing the aWear invention. Picture: Luke Bowden

Isaac, who went to Launceston College, Launceston, developed the software and web development for the device.

“The accelerometer measures movement — so when an increase in movement is detected it records that data and it is then analysed to determine whether a fall has occurred*,” Isaac said.

Isaac will study computer science at Melbourne University this year. He said a key feature of the device was that it triggered an alert to staff even if the wearer did not press the alert button.

Mitchell will study mechatronics* engineering at the University of NSW. He designed the watch and spent a lot of time testing it.

“We have done a lot of test falls — with Mitchell falling onto pillows,” Isaac said.

The awards were announced in Melbourne on Tuesday night.


  • engineering: designing and building solutions to problems
  • showcased: displayed, shown off
  • independent: without help
  • aged-care facility: nursing home
  • brooch: to pin on your jumper
  • lanyard: hangs around your neck on a strap
  • database: list of information
  • occurred: happened
  • mechatronics: a type of engineering that uses electronics and mechanics


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  1. How old are the cousins?
  2. Where will there invention be shown next?
  3. In what ways can the aWear be worn?
  4. What does an accelerometer measure?
  5. What is Mitchell going to study at university?


1. List the benefits
Mitchell was worried about his great-grandmother falling and invented this watch to allow her to live independently while still ensuring her safety. However, this product may have benefits for other people, not just the elderly.

Make a list of which groups of people might benefit from this product and how it might meet their needs.

Do you have any questions about its functionality?

Think of three questions you could ask Mitchell or Issac about how this watch works or how it could be used.

For example, what happens when a fall is detected?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Technologies – Design and Technologies

2. Extension
Design and create a flyer advertising this product, target your advertisement to people at risk of falls. For example, elderly, people with mobility or vision difficulties, or to family or doctors who may recommend this product to them. Highlight how this product works and the benefits of it. Use pictures and fonts that are clear and easily to read.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Technologies – Design and Technologies, The Arts – Visual Art

The glossary of terms helps you to understand and learn the ambitious vocabulary being used in the article. Can you use the words outlined in the glossary to create new sentences? Challenge yourself to include other VCOP (vocabulary, connectives, openers and punctuation) elements in your sentence/s. Have another look through the article, can you find any other Wow Words not outlined in the glossary?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Tell us about something you’d like to invent that would solve a problem you can see happening in your home or someone else’s home.
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.

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