|Preteen prodigy: Nguyen Duong Kim Hao presents his software programme at the 2013 International Invention, Innovation and Technology Exhibition in Malaysia. — File Photos
by Ngoc Nguyen and Bui Tuyet
What if you had a button on your phone that would let you turn off any device in your house, no matter where you were?
Nguyen Duong Kim Hao, 12, created a program that allows users to do just that. The program, which also has an alarm bell to detect intruders, can be installed on both computers and mobile phones connected to the internet. The innovative program recently won two gold medals in the 2013 International Exhibition for Young Inventors (IEYI) and the Asian Young Inventors Exhibition (AYIE).
"My mother usually forgets to turn off electrical appliances when she goes out. So our family has to pay a high electrical bill," Hao said.
It took the student at Nguyen Gia Thieu Secondary School in HCM City one year to create the program, which currently costs VND 800,000 (US$38). "Even low-income households can buy it," the young inventor said.
Hao's mother, Duong Tran Thanh Thao, said her son was interested in informatics books since he learned to read.
"He often asked his father, a physics teacher, about how electrical circuits work and helped him repair electric devices in the house," she said. "When Hao was only nine years old, he studied by himself from forums on the internet and created software to help his father mark more easily and quickly. That was when we discovered my son's special ability."
Before moving to HCM City, the family lived in Binh Phuc Nhut District of the Mekong Delta's Tien Giang Province.
"Last year, after Hao won the National Youth Computer Competition, I decided to move to HCM City so that he could be in the right place to help his talent grow," Thao said.
|Interest sparked:Hao experiments with devices he bought at Nhat Tao Market. — File Photos
Since Hao's family doesn't have much money, he and his mother live in a small apartment with relatives in Tan Binh District's Ward 6, while Hao's father remains in their hometown.
"Now my son can find everything he needs in HCM City and doesn't need to worry if his equipment breaks. It's hard to find such things in our hometown," Thao explained.
Hao was able to take two free courses on computer programming at FPT-Aptech Centre after winning the National Youth Computer Competition in HCM City last year. After finishing the courses, he continued studying advanced computer programming at the centre.
"At first, I thought Hao was an adult with a youthful body. After finding out that he was only 12, I was very surprised!" said Tran Thi Huong, a programming teacher. "Because he knows a lot about programming, he is able to quickly understand new lessons and help his 'big' friends."
Every day, after classes, Hao goes home and immerses himself in his electronic world. He experiments with devices bought from Nhat Tao Market, one of the famous places selling used electronics in the city, before going to bed at 10pm.
Hao frequently surprises people with his inventions.
"Not long ago, he created a music box for my birthday," Thao said.
Asked about his dream, he said, "I want to become a good computer programmer and have my father work on electronics with me. Doing this alone is very boring and when I have difficulties, no one can help me."
Thanks to a scholarship of VND 20 million ($952) from the city's Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, he has the opportunity to fulfill his dreams, such as a program that helps teachers use computers remotely during class.
"The current software only allows them to control slides in PowerPoint. But my upcoming program will provide them with many other functions, such as crossword puzzles and sound effects, which will make lessons more attractive," he said.
The director of the City ‘s Youth Centre of Science and Technology Development, Doan Kim Thanh, also drew inspiration from the young inventor: "We will continue keeping close watch on Hao's special ability of informatics and will mobilise financial resources to help his dreams come true". — VNS