Teenager’s Brilliant Vision Creates Navigation Device For the Visually Impaired

 The visually impaired are not a group that generally inspires innovation and change, although one can only wonder why that is so. The quality of their lives is just as important of those of any others with disabilities, but it took one young Canadian teenager who cared enough to  take the time to make a valuable difference.

It all began when Alex Deans was only twelve years old. One day, while walking in his home town of Windsor, Ontario, he saw a visually-impaired woman struggling to cross the street and decided to invent something to help her and others like her gain more independence.


Alex Deans Screen Shot: Source: DevelopinInnovationsAlex Deans Screen Shot: Source: DevelopinInnovations


The iAid for the Visually Impaired

As incredible as this new device is, the fact that its inventor is a mere teenager makes it all the more amazing. Alex worked on the iAid prototype for a few years (evenings and weekends) reseraching and developing a unique device that works in the same manner as a bat uses sonar. The device uses four ultrasonic sensors mounted on a belt and a joystick that scans and maps the wearer's surroundings. if the wearer of the device is indoors, the joystick is used for navigation; outdoors, the iAid runs off Bluetooth on a cell phone.


The iAid: Source: CBC.CaThe iAid: Source: CBC.Ca


A self-taught programmer

Alex Deans taught himself how to program online with help from Internet users in chat forums all over the world and he learned code in whatever spare time he had. On his own, he figured out how to connect the iAid to Bluetooth, Google Maps and Android smart phones. All of his hard work paid off as his invention won the Platinum Award for best intermediate paltform at the Canada-Wide Science Fair that took place in  Lethbridge, Alberta, last year. He also won $2,000 as part of the Weston Youth Innovations Award.

Who is Alex Deans?

Science-obsessed since the 3rd  grade, the now 18-year-old, Grade 12 student from Academie Ste.Cecile in Windsor, Ontario, is a very well-rounded young man. His interests range from oudoor sports like hiking, skiing, sailing, tennis, soccer and volleyball to playing the acoustic guitar and piano. In addition, Alex  loves animals and still finds he time to play with his bearded dragon. He palns to study electrical engineering at McGill University this coming September.

A love of science and the inventive spirit runs rampantly in Alex's DNA, as his younger brother, Marcus, is also  a brilliant inventor. Just a few weeks before his older brother, he won the Platinum Award, a Gold Medal and the S.M. Blair Award at the Canada-Wide Science Fair for his project, the NOGOS, which is a cheap and effective device used to filter water that uses sand and sugar.

The future of Alex Deans

Alex is in the process of patenting his new invention, which he recently tested on 11 individuals at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He was thrilled that the iAid improved both their confidence and their ability to navigate the surroundings. According to Dr. Hooley Mclaughlin, chief science officer at the Ontario Science Centre, "Alex is thoughtful, very intelligent and someone who cares about people."

And to this amazing young man  who believes that "the best part of science is using it to make other people's lives better," one can only be amazed at his vision which shines like a bright, bright star, headed to earth with unspoken promise and hope for the world of the disabled.

Closing thoughts on the power of creativity and courage:

When you make a choice, you change the future. ~ Deepak Chopra


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