At a backyard pool party ten years ago, Dr Jordan Nguyen decided to attempt an especially creative jump from the diving board. Lacking control, he careered head-first into the water and felt a “massive crunch” in his neck as his head hit the bottom of the pool.
He was taken swiftly to hospital and found to have torn a number of muscles in his neck. It turned out to be a life-changing experience.
“It made me think, ‘what would life be like if this was a permanent thing?’,” he remembers, speaking with Insight’s Jenny Brockie on this week’s show. “And the next day when I was able to walk and move around I realised how lucky I [was], so I started looking into disability,” he says. “I had no clue about it.”
At the time he was studying his PhD in electrical engineering, but the experience saw him move towards biomedical engineering, learning more about neuroscience, robotics and artificial intelligence to see how they could assist people with disabilities.
“I learned all about the world of cerebral palsy [and other disabilities] and … I was finding people who were changing my perspective on life,” he says.
“People who were more motivated, who were more driven, who were doing more with [their] life than I was or anyone I knew, so I started thinking if technology could potentially provide a platform, provide a bridge to reach those goals, to reach those creative expressions, to reach the aspirations that you have, then let’s see what we can do with it.”