An autism school program making a difference

Marangaroo Primary School is one of five public schools in Western Australia hosting a new program for students with autism. Under the program students receive intensive instructions in their own classes, while given every opportunity to integrate with mainstream students. The ultimate aim is for them to transition into mainstream classes.The programs follow the WA curriculum and target age-appropriate academic skills while addressing the many challenges associated with autism including socialisation, emotional regulation, limited interests and repetitive behaviours. Eligible students require an ASD diagnosis, without accompanying intellectual disability, and need to be independent in terms of toileting and dressing. www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-12/new-wa-autism-school-program-making-a-difference/9642608

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Putting data into play

Catapult has grown from a modest Australian startup into a global leader in athlete analytics. Its technology is powering sports superstars and elite teams around the world, improving performance and preventing injuries before they happen. Many players at the current Commonwealth Games on Queensland’s Gold Coast are fitted with a small device designed to track every move they make. The goal is to optimise performance and reduce injuries. https://www.australiaunlimited.com/technology/putting-data-into-play

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A wind – proof umbrella

The problem with most umbrellas is that the hinges are the weakest points, making the umbrellas vulnerable to strong winds. The Senz umbrella is designed to redirect the wind, allowing it to float on a strong gust like a kite. There are no hinges in the design. Instead there is sturdy ribbing that’s nearly impossible to turn inside-out. www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2018/03/30/how-a-dutch-designer-unlocked-the-secret-of-a-storm-proof-umbrella/

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A silver-based compound that could stop cancer from spreading

New research indicates that a silver- based compound is able to tackle the energy centre (the mitochondria) of cancer cells, preventing them from growing and spreading. The compound still needs to go to extensive clinical trials before it can become available as a chemotherapeutic agent. However the findings pave the way for a new chemotherapeutic drug that could be more effective and less toxic, with fewer side effects. http://www.inkl.com/newsletters/morning-edition/news/novel-silver-compounds-offer-a-potential-cancer-treatment-breakthrough?

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An emergency fund for NFP’s

Open Road Alliance has launched a low-interest loan to offer NFP’s access to working capital and credit lines understanding that the goal isn’t just money making, but to benefit society at large. Organizations can now apply for assistance and receive a below-market rate loan with a maximum two-year window for return. The fund will basically cover three destabilizing scenarios: delays in expected funding (because some funder or investor had a management hiccup), organizational misfortune (like a warehouse fire or key staffer getting seriously ill), or Acts of God or Economics (devastating weather, devaluating currency issues, or shifting governmental policies). Open Road is encouraging other foundations and impact investors to develop their own funding mechanisms to better serve the needs of nonprofits and social enterprises working for impact. www.fastcompany.com/40534806/when-nonprofits-have-a-financial-emergency-theres-now-a-fund-to-bail-them-out

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Testing drugs on worms

Drug discovery is an expensive process because drugs need to be tested for effectiveness and side effects on animals (usually mice) before they can proceed to a human trial. A high proportion of drugs fail during the animal testing, making it a very expensive process. A US company called NemaMetrix has come up with a way to test drugs on Nematode worms. They modify the DNA of the worms with human DNA which NemaMetrix says makes the testing process relevant to 80% of human diseases including cancer, alzheimers, depression, cardiac arrhythmia and others. They can also tailor the DNA of the worm to a particular variant of a disease that an individual has, which makes their system cost effective for drug discovery for rare diseases. Once they have modified the worm’s DNA they stick it into a proprietary measurement system which electrically monitors the worm’s vital signs while the drug is administered and that enables them to track changes and the effectiveness of the drug. Techniques such as these promise new drug discoveries and lower cost drugs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHp9_ucc5V0&feature=youtu.be

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Drones that reforest after fires

BioCarbon says its two drones can plant 100,000 trees in a single day. It has started in Myanmar (previously called Burma) following successful trials in England and Australia, The drones work in three stages. Firstly the drones will map an area, analysing surface topology and composition, soil type and moisture, as well as possible physical obstructions. These analyses help decide which seeds should be planted. Secondly, the drones fly low, around 3-6 feet above the ground, planting new seeds every six seconds. The drones aren’t however just letting the seeds drift in the breeze. Each drone uses a pressurised can to shoot a biodegradable seed pod into the ground. Thirdly, after the mapping and planting, the drones monitor the area regularly. That data gets fed into the company’s machine learning algorithms, strengthening the mapping part of the plan. The process is ideal for reforesting after fires and planting trees in difficult to reach areas. https://www.biocarbonengineering.com/

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No more checkout queues

We’re rapidly heading toward an era of all-digital shopping transactions. By the end of January 2018, 125 Walmart locations in the US will feature “Scan & Go” technology, which enables shoppers to scan items and pay for their purchases directly from their phones while in-store. Kroger’s “Scan, Bag, Go” technology will be rolled out to 400 stores this year, and Amazon’s Go is also expanding,. https://www.businessinsider.com/walmart-lets-shoppers-check-out-without-cashiers-at-more-stores-2018-1

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Using avatars and AR to express yourself creatively

These animated characters are a preview of our immersive avatar future, an evolution of digital self-expression and communication. In the early days of the internet communities were text based. Newer entrants like Instagram and Snapchat are visual mediums and introduced face filters. The next evolution of communication will be driven by augmented reality so you can express yourself creatively. You can watch the Facebook Developers promo video here: https://www.facebook.com/FacebookforDevelopers/videos/10154612033343553/

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A wearable breast pump

Mountain View-based startup Willow has developed a discreet, battery-powered breast pump that follows the shape of the breast and is small enough to be slipped into a bra. The milk is sucked into freezer-safe bags that fit into the cups. Because it’s so much quieter, it allows the wearer to continue with her day while pumping, whether at work or leisure. An accompanying smartphone app keeps track of milk volume, pumping time and past pumping sessions. The device is currently in beta testing, but will be available to purchase in 2018. https://www.willowpump.com/

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A social robot that helps autistic adults find work

Researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have built Alyx, a robot that teaches autistic people to recognise social cues. Learning to identify and process these facial expressions is critical to workplace interactions. The team plans to turn the Alyx prototype into a full-bodied, autonomous version, operating in a mock workplace, with clinical trials then planned. http://www.straitstimes.com/world/social-robot-could-help-autistic-adults-find-work

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