A wish come true for 8-year-old robot enthusiast who battled brain cancer

Zahaan Tambawala tries on artificial skin designed for robots during a tour of a robotics laboratory at the Institute for Media Innovation at Nanyang Technological University.
Zahaan Tambawala tries on artificial skin designed for robots during a tour of a robotics laboratory at the Institute for Media Innovation at Nanyang Technological University.PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Zahaan Tambawala shakes hands with Poppy, a customisable robot.
Zahaan Tambawala shakes hands with Poppy, a customisable robot.PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Zahaan Tambawala learning about robotic sensing.
Zahaan Tambawala learning about robotic sensing.PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Zahaan Tambawala wiring sensors to a Raspberry Pi.
Zahaan Tambawala wiring sensors to a Raspberry Pi.PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Zahaan Tambawala interacting with virtual human Nicole while his father, Mr Murtuza Tambawala, looks on.
Zahaan Tambawala interacting with virtual human Nicole while his father, Mr Murtuza Tambawala, looks on.PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Exactly a year after completing cancer treatment, eight-year-old science fan Zahaan Tambawala got the treat of his life on Saturday (Oct 6) when he got up close and personal with state-of-the art robots at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The aspiring "robot builder" was diagnosed with brain tumours when just six after complaining of severe headaches and vomiting.

He battled cancer for the next nine months with great determination and triumphed.

Zahaan celebrated his one-year anniversary of defeating the disease with a full day of robot-themed activities on Saturday.

His day started with a tour of a robotics laboratory at the Institute for Media Innovation at NTU, where he got to interact with robotic creations.

This was followed by a Lego game session with his classmates before the day ended with a robot building class at the United World College of South East Asia.

The activities were organised by the Make-A-Wish Foundation Singapore, which helps kids with life-threatening medical conditions.

Zahaan had a blast, said mum Karishma Tambawala, 37.


Zahaan Tambawala and his mother, Mrs Karishma Tambawala, touring the robotics laboratory at the Institute for Media Innovation at Nanyang Technological University. PHOTO: LEE JIA WEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

"He's really had a one-of-a-kind experience, experiencing things that he would never have experienced otherwise... and it opened up his curiosity," added Mrs Tambawala, a housewife.

The celebration came at just the right time, she said, as Zahaan has had a challenging time adjusting after resuming full-time studies at international school Tanglin Trust School in August.

"He's just realising the differences between him and other kids... like he can't write as fast, or is not as strong," said Mrs Tambawala.

But the day's activities have made him feel especially treasured and loved, she said, and would help boost his confidence.

Zahaan had no doubts about how his special anniversary went: "My day was good, brilliant, amazing and marvellous! My wish came true through Make-a-Wish."