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【Cubic Zine Issue 5】Scholar-Social Innovators: Prof Catherine So Starts a Company to Keep Children with Autism Company

All things are difficult before they are easy – this year’s certainly off to a rough start! The SoCUBE team genuinely wishes every one of you a healthy Year of the Rat!

May our feature stories warm you up amid the harsh winter and invigorate you with some positivity! Let us care for our local society and global village through social innovation.

In this Issue: #UnisTogetherFightingDisease #PlantbasedMeat #Stanford #PeriodPoverty #RobotsAndAutism #Psychology

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Scholar-Social Innovator → LOCAL

“I found the essence of studying in psychology”: Prof Catherine So founds social enterprise for children with autism

Prof Catherine So, Department of Educational Psychology, CUHK (Photo: SoCUBE)

“Taking psychology hadn’t been a keen decision, who could’ve known it’d be love at first sight? I’m over-sensitive – that’s both good and bad. Sometimes I overthink. (I would question) why certain things happen, why people act in certain ways. This is psychology, the scientific study of human mind and behaviours.”

Graduating from CUHK, earning a PhD under “the mother of gestures” at the University of Chicago, then teaching at the National University of Singapore for 5 years… why did Catherine choose to return? How did her breakthrough in research come by, which prompted her to set up a social enterprise for children with autism?

Read the full interview

Epilogue: “Struck dumb!” TCM practitioner on meeting families with autism for the first time


Science and Technology for Autism Remediation (STAR) at a glimpse

Founding year: 2015, becoming a social enterprise in 2019
Founding team: Prof Catherine So (Department of Educational Psychology) and educational psychologist Dr Sarah Luk
Mission: To serve children with ASDs and their parents through professional assessment, therapy, counselling, community education, as well as innovative technologies; committing to research and building big data for designing and implementing personalised intervention
Members: Personnel trained in SEN, clinical psychologists, speech therapists, and those concerned for ASD individuals

Sensory integration|Scholarly Keyword

“Some children with ASDs got issues with sensory integration. If they find it noisy, like hearing thunder, they hit their heads with brute force. Some deformed their skulls as a result. I came across one student – his skull was dented on both sides (from prolonged hitting),” Catherine recalled.

She explained that when externally stimulated, these children may go out of control and even harm themselves. How do robots help? “One student learned to ‘cover his ears’ after the robots repeatedly demonstrated to him the gesture, his self-harming behaviour abated.”



Dream Impact|Hong Kong

Among the many co-working spaces in Hong Kong, Dream Impact, in particular, gathers social innovators and entrepreneurs who dare to dream. Conveniently located in Lai Chi Kok, it brings together socially-minded dreamers to scale and deepen social impact through advocacy, bridging of resources and strategic partnerships.

More than a spacious environment and connections on a human level – Dream Impact offers a wide range of support and opportunities across sectors, including impact investment. CUHK teams interested in joining this community with passion may learn the details here!

Period poverty|The UK

Ditching class cos sanitary napkins are unaffordable? That’s not only a third-world problem. The Independent reported that every 1 in 10 women aged 14 to 21 cannot afford feminine hygiene products. 3 years ago, then 17-year-old Amika George found it bewildering that some girls resorted to newspaper, toilet paper or socks, some even had to skip school for a week. She launched the “Free Periods” campaign, calling for governmental action under the Equality Act. Her demands were realised early this year – all public schools in England are funded by the government to offer free period products for girls in need.


Scholar-Social Innovator → GLOBAL

A break for a change: Stanford professor to save the world with Impossible Foods

(Photo: Impossible Foods)

In 2009, after more than 20 years in the academia, Patrick O. Brown took an 18-month sabbatical during which he pondered about two pressing issues, namely changing directions in life, and addressing one of the biggest global crises – environmental pollution.

A vegetarian-veteran for over five decades, the Stanford Emeritus Professor recognised the meat and dairy industry as one of the pivotal culprits for environmental degradation.

Brown is convinced that if there’s one way to save our planet, it is a reduction (or even termination) in meat and dairy consumption. That being said, he is well-aware that education and appeals to action have their limits. What if there’s a substitute that tastes like meat, feels like meat, “bleeds” like meat, that even meat-lovers would give up real meat for it?

Read the full story 



WeConnect with you amid the pandemic

As the coronavirus sweeps across nations, masks become a luxury item, and schools get suspended, aside from taking interview questions and spurring on research, what roles are universities playing to connect with the community?

CUHK|A novel usage

Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Department of Chemistry Dennis Ng led a team of colleagues from his department and the University Safety Office to produce over 200L of alcohol-based handrub in the laboratory. The home-made product is distributed not only among students and front-line staff, but also charities and elderly centres, for free. It even contains hand protection ingredients! Learn about the formula here.

HKU|A novel method

Securing masks tops Hongkongers’ current list of priorities, though equally important is knowing the ropes of wearing them properly. Dr Pak Leung Ho, one of the local “KOLs” of the epidemic, preached Mask 101 in a series of light-hearted videos. He counters common misuses with “five requirements, not one less”, for instance, learning to distinguish the inside from the outside. Have a great lesson, and a good laugh.

PolyU|A novel product

Felix Chung, Legislative Council member for the Textiles and Garment constituency, revealed in late January that PolyU is developing an anti-bacterial “cloth mask” that can be reused for 50-70 times, estimated to be available in 2 weeks. He displayed a sample product a few days ago, explaining its working principles and certification arrangements. PolyU has clarified that the material protects the user mainly from bacteria and mold, and anti-viral effects are yet to be verified, though it has been reported that the university planned to obtain virus samples from the Hospital Authority for testing.

Stay tuned to how CUHK is combating the outbreak by following the CUHK official Facebook page!


Looking for funding to launch your social innovation project?

CUHK runs two funding schemes that support researchers to get down to social innovation – KPF and S-KPF. Selected projects may receive up to HK$400,000 for KPF projects or HK$600,000 for S-KPF companies. Around 200 teams have already benefited from the schemes.

Applications for 2019/20 are already closed. For those who submitted proposals, watch out for our results announcement (by early March 2020)!

Missed the deadline? (Oops!) Prepare for the next round by learning the details below. Or share with us your ideas to get ready in advance!

Apply for KPF
Apply for S-KPF


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