Grant turns robot dream into reality for young cancer patients

July 27, 2017

Hospitalised young cancer patients will be able to start using robotics to stay connected with their friends, family and school community thanks to funding announced this week from the Newman’s Own Foundation.

Technology entrepreneur and former Young Australian of the Year, Marita Cheng, is developing the robots and has teamed up with Canteen to roll out the project.

The $130,000 grant from the Newman’s Own Foundation will enable Canteen to run a pilot program with 13 Teleport robots, which is due to begin in November.

Young cancer patients will be able to control the Teleport robot through an app on their tablet or phone and use this mobile videoconferencing experience to take part in the classroom or discussions around the family dinner table.

“Every year, around 1,000 young Australians aged 15-25 are diagnosed with cancer and about 750 will need to go into hospital for treatment,” said Canteen CEO Peter Orchard.

“Being stuck in hospital for cancer treatment is a horrible experience at any age, but it’s especially isolating for adolescents and young adults who often feel out of place in both children’s and adult wards.

“Young cancer patients also tend to miss an average of about nine months of school, which can really set them back in both educational and social terms.

“That’s why we’re so grateful to the Newman’s Own Foundation for providing the funding to help us pilot this incredibly exciting and innovative robot project with Marita,” he added.

The Teleport robots are designed and built in Melbourne by Aubot, where Marita Cheng is the CEO.

“Controlling the Teleport robots is like playing a video game, but in real life so the experience is very interactive for young people,” she said.

“Teleport will allow young people to be at the front of the classroom while the teacher is instructing, and then sit with their peers when the class are doing activities. During lunch, students can mingle with their friends in the halls. All from their hospital bed,” she added.

“We are thrilled to be supporting this program and to be working with Marita and Canteen,” said Dimity Pinto, Australian Advisor to the Newman’s Own Foundation.

“This grant is part of our 2017 program to highlight the work of six inspiring Australian women and Marita’s work in the robotics sector is a great example of how a person can make a great difference,” she added.

Canteen supports young people aged 12-25 who are dealing with a close family member’s cancer or their own. To find out more or to get support, visit canteen.org.au or call 1800 226 833. To find out more about Teleport robots, visit aubot.com.

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Media contact: Kerry Kalcher, Head of Marketing and Communications
02 9007 0208 / 0405 283 352

About Newman’s Own Foundation: Paul Newman was committed to helping make the world a better place. To carry on his philanthropic legacy, Newman’s Own Foundation donates to charity all net royalties and profits it receives from the sale of Newman’s Own products. To date, Paul Newman and Newman’s Own Foundation have given over $485 USD million to thousands of charities around the world.