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Becoming Superhuman (ATOM study guide)

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    In this two-part series, biomedical engineer Dr Jordan Nguyen tries to make a boy's wildest dreams come true with cutting-edge technology. He's promised thirteen-year-old Riley Saban he will invent a device to help Riley achieve the impossible, and even have a superpower. Will Riley be able to train his brain to use Jordan's new technology? Will Jordan's technological vision become a reality? And will Riley get his superpower?

    Jordan's aim is for Riley to have 'telekinetic control' – the ability to independently take control of the technology in his environment in a non-physical manner, in this case using only his eyes. He sets about designing a headband that will respond to electrical activity associated with Riley's eye movements to command lights and other appliances in the home remotely.

    But Riley's real dream is to drive a car. Jordan will have to ask even more of Riley to achieve this dream. To steer a car, Riley will use his eyes via Jordan's headband device, so it creates a new challenge in safely perceiving the surrounding obstacles as he steers. Instead, he will have to teach his brain to rely on another sense to navigate his course. It's a unique process called 'spatial sensing'. Riley will have to train his brain to respond to the vibrations that are transmitted from sensors on the exterior of the car, effectively swapping his sense of sight for touch.

    For the technology to be effective, Riley has to work hard. He will have to train his eyes and his brain to perform unique functions. For this to work, both Jordan and Riley must succeed. Together, they tell a story about the incredible capabilities of the human brain when connected to ability-enhancing technologies.

    Along the way, Jordan will get help from experts at the top of their fields. They'll help him achieve his bold vision, and ask the broader questions Jordan's inventions raise: Is the day when technology gives our biology superhuman powers closer than we think? How might our brains and bodies adapt? And how, amid this relentless advance of technology, might the human brain prove itself to be the ultimate computer?

    Together, Jordan and Riley are setting themselves a monumental challenge. Will Riley be able to train his brain to use Jordan's technology? Will Jordan's technological vision become a reality? And will Riley ever get his superpower?

    Curriculum links

    Becoming Superhuman is most suitable for secondary students in Years 8–12 studying Science, Digital Technology, English, Media Arts, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

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