Mastercard put out a nationwide search for budding young inventors and challenged them to solve with technology, a problem in the areas where children believe tech could make the biggest impact – from helping people in need to improving education. The three finalists will be pitching their ideas to a panel of experts at Australian Open 2020 next week, including tennis legend Darren Cahill.
The winner will receive a STEM innovation prize for them and their entire class at school.
Question: Can you tell us about your invention idea to help cure kids' anxiety?
Nikolas: I love learning about STEM and I even study engineering on the weekends, so I was excited to enter the Mastercard Innovation Challenge with my invention idea – Bubbles – The Helping Hand. My invention is a cute and fluffy toy that helps children with reading and anxiety, which are becoming more common in schools. The toy can sense when a kid is suffering from anxiety and helps them to try and combat it with things like breathing exercises and music.
Question: Why have you named your invention Bubbles?
Nikolas: I named it Bubbles because bubbles make you feel nice and bubbly inside and we all like that feeling.
Question: What does Bubbles look like?
Nikolas: Bubbles is a furry toy that's cute, soft and calming. It has touch sensors implanted on its back, so that when you pat it, it can sense how anxious you are.
It also has ears made of thermoplastic that act as a rubber stress ball, so you can squeeze the dog's ears to relax.
To help with reading, Bubbles has an auto sense camera that can scan text and read to the kid.
I really enjoyed coming up with the idea of Bubbles – The Helping Hand. I love technology and inventions and it was great to come up with an idea that uses technology to help children everywhere.
Question: How has anxiety affected you?
Nikolas: I've had anxiety because of bullying, learning difficulties and starting at a new school. I struggled with coping and making new friends. I was sweating a lot and overworking my body when I shouldn't be.
Question: What coping techniques have you used to manage your own anxiety?
Nikolas: I learnt to manage my anxiety symptoms through breathing exercises, meditation and by squeezing a stress ball when I felt the signs coming on.
Question: What advice do you have for other 12-year-olds struggling with anxiety?
Nikolas: Anxiety in children is real and we need to tackle it when kids are young because if we don't it can lead to other mental health issues such as depression. Everyone is different, so kids should seek out help and find a solution that works for them to manage symptoms of anxiety when they feel it coming on.
Interview by Brooke Hunter