Alistair McEwan

CPA Assistive Tech Newsletter – Get to know Professor Alistair McEwan

Professor Alistair McEwan – Ainsworth Chair of Technology and Innovation at Cerebral Palsy Alliance

Qualifications: PhD, MEng(Res), BE, BComm

Q: What is your background of research, and how did you come to work at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance?

I started as an electrical engineer with a PhD working on a new communication standard named after a Viking. I left it to work on medical devices for stroke and epilepsy as I thought it wouldn’t go very far because why would you want all your devices like mice, headphones, speakers and even medical devices wireless when you need to plug them in to charge them up?  You might have heard about the technology called Bluetooth. I started working on CP after a project with the Gates foundation on newborn body composition after my 1st son was born and there was a concern about growth restriction, and in the UK a huge social influence on breast feeding. I learnt more about the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the lifelong impact of CP.

Q: What are you passionate about in working with people with cerebral palsy?

Engineers can make a huge impact over the lifetime for people with CP, families and our community and I’m amazed that there are so few engineers involved. We need to get the message out more and it’s great to see it is starting to happen with web accessibility standards and global accessibility awareness day etc.

Q: What are some exciting projects that you and your team are working on at the moment?

  • Electronic implants for muscle control and pain – similar to a cochlear implant, this could be a great alternative to Botox, other drugs or surgery.
  • Soft robotic exoskeletons – to our knowledge the first soft mobility device for children under 2 years old and inspired by Big Hero 6 (Baymax)
  • My voice library – a game for children to donate their voices with dysarthria to build better speech technologies
  • Startups in our great Remarkable program that has recently expanded to the US and the development of a global database of AT so that we can get the technology into as many hands that need it all around the world including low to middle income countries.

Q: What are some things you like to do in your spare time?

  • Paddleboarding – I saw a headline it’s like anti-depressants on the water and Sydney is perfect for it as long as a ferry doesn’t throw up a big wave. It’s a great way to spend time with my twin brother.
  • Walking/running
  • Podcasts – as they don’t count as screen time

Check out Alistair’s appearance on season one of CPA’s podcast, Cerebral Conversations

Q: What are 3 restaurants/cafes you like to go to in Sydney and would recommend to others?

  • Thai la Ong, Newtown – was there at the opening and it’s just been getting better and better
  • Yum Cha at Wests Ashfield Leagues Club – what could be more Sydney?
  • Mr Wong, Bridge Lane, great place to take overseas visitors

Q: What was the first concert you ever went to? And what was your favourite concert overall?

First concert: I won tickets as a teenager to Tina Turner and went with my mum who is a big fan. Favourite was Radiohead at a free summer concert in Oxford, they weren’t very famous at the time but they were a fantastic and lovely long English summer evening.