When the all girls team of 14 students from india Austin, TX were approached by an MIT liaison to participate in the Lemelson-MIT Inven Teams program, they wasted no time taking the opportunity.
“We’re taking Arduino hardware and pairing it with the latest GPS technologies available to us.” “Combining these we’re making it possible for a blind or visually impaired individual to come back and relocate an already visited area without the assistance of another person.”
When a user is holding the device, it takes the GPS coordinates, pairs it with the users voice recording, and uses the recording as a label for the location. When the user comes back by that area, it sends a notification that there is a “bookmark” nearby and the user can chose to either hear what that area is or not.
“We’re trying to make it as simple as possible,” Rashed added. “One of the things we’re trying to achieve…is making it a shared database, so that every user can connect with others data- solving the problem of isolation among these individuals.”
After sending questions and surveys to schools and institutions for the blind visually impaired across the country, the team found that what was needed most was a device that worked indoors.
“They’ve spent an extensive amount of time with a professional who builds GPS chips,” said Allen. “He really explained what GPS can and can’t do.”
He went on to explain that the trick would be to figure out how to get the GPS component to work indoors- something even professional firms in Austin are trying to figure out.
This snag didn’t stop the students. After researching they found a GPS chip that has “precise point positioning technology” and uncovered information about differential GPS: land beacons for GPS that are on the planet rather than in satellites.
“These will provide clearer signals, so by combining these together, we’re trying to create a relative positioning technology that we can use with the GPS,” explained Rashed. She added that using the land beacons will allow the device to provide a location based on the devices last known coordinates of where it had a strong signal.
Many of the students on the team expressed their excitement over having this opportunity. Understandable, since almost all of plan to go into a sub-field of engineering.
“I decided it would be a great way to learn a lot about not only inventing but helping people,” said sophomore, Avni Shah. “What we’re working on can actually have a lot of impact. Our project will actually benefit an entire group of people.”
The InvenTeams program is made up of high school students, teachers, and mentors that receive grants up to $10,000 each to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. there have been more than 95 InvenTeams from across the world. The Vandegrift team is one of 15 schools nationwide to be selected this year.
“The students work on real world stuff. “A lot of what happens in classes is basic textbook knowledge, but in here, you get to take everything from marketing, hardware, engineering- the whole spectrum- and give students real world experience. And it forces them to figure out complicated problems.