National Star College is set to open a groundbreaking £6.1 million residential building equipped with cutting-edge AI technology aimed at enhancing the independence and life preparation of students with disabilities. This “smart house” will provide students with voice-activated AI capabilities, enabling them to customize technology to meet their individual needs and ease their transition into life after college.
A smart house for independence
The National Star College, situated in Ullenwood near Cheltenham, is renowned for providing education and therapy for young people with diverse disabilities. The new residential building, aptly named ‘Building a Brighter Future,’ is a single-story structure with 13 bedrooms, each equipped with overhead tracking hoists and an array of AI features. These features include voice-activated appliances like a fridge.
The key objective of this state-of-the-art facility is to offer students a safe environment in which they can explore and adapt to AI technology. It is designed to prepare them for a more independent life beyond college, equipping them with skills and familiarity with technology that can enhance their quality of life.
Personalized technology solutions
Maizie Morgan, an assistive technology technician at National Star College, emphasized the significance of this initiative: “We’re trying to give the students the opportunity to explore this technology in a safe environment at college.” She further explained, “The idea is that prospective and current students are able to use this technology, see what’s out there in the world, and eventually, hopefully implement it into their own rooms and then transition from college.”
Simon Welch, the college’s Principal, highlighted that the technology has been tailored to meet the unique needs of each student. “We understand, in terms of the young people and their disability, and what’s really the priority for them. The technology isn’t necessarily hugely innovative, but the way in which we work with the individual is,” he said.
Empowering communication and independence
Jasper Tomlinson, a student at National Star College, had the opportunity to test the software before the official opening. Although he is non-verbal, he can send commands to smart devices using his eyes to control his electronic communicator. This innovative approach allows students like Jasper to control various devices and appliances in their rooms with a single action word.
“I think that it’s great because it helps me gain confidence for the time I leave college,” Jasper expressed, highlighting the importance of this technology in preparing him for life beyond the college’s supportive environment.
Enhancing lives through technology
Peter Horne, National Star’s Deputy Chief Executive, emphasized the significant impact of this new accommodation on the lives of young people with complex physical and learning disabilities. He stated, “This new accommodation will improve the lives of young people with complex physical and learning disabilities and create stimulating spaces to live, learn, and relax in.”
The integration of AI technology at National Star College not only enhances the independence and confidence of students but also represents a broader shift towards inclusivity and innovation in the field of education. This forward-thinking approach ensures that students with disabilities have access to the tools and resources they need to thrive in a technology-driven world, laying the foundation for a brighter and more independent future.