While normal teenagers are trying to juggle their social lives, a few gifted Palo Alto students are helping to improve the lives of quadriplegics.
Henry Evans is a quadriplegic, able to move only his head, able to speak only with the help of his wife. Last Wednesday, thanks to his “laser glasses”, he did something he hadn’t done for five years: he turned on a light.
Evans was taking part in a demonstration at the Cool Products Expo at Stanford University. He bobbed his head up and down, triggering a sensor with a laser pointer attached to his glasses. The sensor, in turn, turned the light on and off. Palo Alto High School students designed the system as part of a year-long project to help quadriplegics and other disabled people control household electronics.
“We like to think of it as a long finger”, said junior Mike Tramiel, who designed the circuit boards used in the project. “It’s a finger with which Henry can reach out and turn on a lamp or feed his dog.”
“We hope to have him vacuuming in a few weeks”, team captain Guy Davidson said, only half jokingly. One of their next steps involves integrating their sensors with a small robot built for the purpose.
The team designed and built the project the project as part of the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams program. The Lemelson Foundation and MIT select 20 teams across the country at the beginning of every school year to design new products, which the teams present at MIT each June. “We still have a few things we need to work out, but the progress is very encouraging”, said Tramiel. “We’d like to get these things installed for everyone who needs them.”
Press Release:A Helping Hand For Those Without, High School Students Use Grant to Help Disabled
(hat tip: Engadget)