Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Evan Huang, the founder of DrinkBot. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Evan! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your startup?
Evan: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! A favorite adage of mine is, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” We take so much for granted and don’t appreciate the little things. What about those who cannot perform simple tasks like getting up, walking to the kitchen table, and getting something to eat or drink? In 2022, I participated in the Rise Challenge, a challenge to showcase brilliance. My project for this challenge was developing DrinkBot, a robot that can grab and deliver old cups for the elderly and disabled. The challenge I am addressing is the care for the elderly and disabled. Even after becoming a Rise Global Winner, I continued to develop and improve DrinkBot.
Spiffy: That is awesome! What motivated you to do it?
Evan: My grandfather moved to a retirement home about five years ago, and he had difficulty holding food and drinks. Looking around, I observed this was common in retirement homes. It led me to ask myself, “What can I do to help?” As a natural problem-solver, I started to have ideas. This is both a personal and a global mission: I believe that everyone deserves to live and control their own life. Driven not only by my beliefs and values, but also by my passion for technology and innovation, I developed DrinkBot.
Spiffy: Tell us more about how you or your startup are working towards a more equitable world.
Evan: The world is becoming more and more technologically advanced but mostly to the benefit of young people. Elderly people struggle with apps, phones, computers, and other devices. Not only that, but also elderly and disabled people may not even be able to perform simple tasks like getting a glass of water from the tap. In addition, they may be inclined to feel guilty about having to bother other people to look after them. DrinkBot gives disabled people more power and control over their lives; they can be more independent and perform more tasks themselves. DrinkBot is the start of an idea to use technology to improve the daily lives of disabled or less fortunate people and help them become more independent.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community or audience?
Evan: Recently, I created the second prototype of DrinkBot. This included sensors that could detect obstacles, improving the reliability and ease of use of DrinkBot. I tested this prototype with some elderly as well as disabled people, and it was a success! I plan to continue creating similar projects in the future. I also created a Rise NZ club in 2022 to support and encourage young people in NZ to create their own Rise projects. This group has set out to give back to the community that nurtured them. I also plan to continue growing this club in 2023!
Spiffy: Congrats on that progress! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Evan: VEX Robotics is a robotic competition that involves building robots to compete in games. During the 2020-2021 VEX Robotics season, I organized a five-member team to compete. For various reasons, including COVID-19, each of my teammates left the team one by one. Despite this, I didn’t give up because I had developed an interest in robotics and wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. As a result, I was able to represent New Zealand at the VEX Robotics World Championship and placed 4th in my division. Even though I was the only member left, I was glad to have persevered, because I got to meet so many awesome people and was deeply inspired by them. This experience taught me discipline, work ethic, and to stay true to what I believe in.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Evan—it’s been an honor!
Evan Huang is a Year 12 student at Lynfield College in Auckland, New Zealand. With a vision to improve the quality of life for the elderly and disabled, he invented DrinkBot. Evan is a RISE Global Winner and VEX Robotics Challenge World Winner. (Nominated by Rise of Schmidt Futures. First published on the Ladderworks website on May 3, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.