Raghav Ganesh, 13, of San Jose, Calif., a seventh-grader at Joaquin Miller Middle School, designed and built a device that uses sensors to detect objects beyond the reach of the white canes used by many visually impaired people. Raghav got the idea after watching a video about the challenges faced by those with limited or no eyesight. "I saw how, despite being used for several centuries, the white cane does not provide users enough information about their environment," he said. "I also saw why many high-tech alternatives are not meeting the needs of visually challenged folks."
Because he enjoys science and electronics, and has become familiar with sensors and motors through a toy-building hobby, Raghav decided to see if he could design something better. He built a small prototype and entered it in a local science fair. He then sought advice from the head of a local blind center, and over the next several months made five major revisions based on feedback from blind center staff and actual cane users. He ended up with a device that clamps onto the cane, uses ultrasonic and infrared sensors to detect obstacles more than six feet beyond the end of the cane, and communicates this information to the user through vibrations in the cane's handle. Raghav secured a grant to make multiple copies, and hopes to create an open patent so that organizations for the blind around the world can make the device for their clients.