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YHS student builds prototype to assist visually impaired

High School students continuously surprise educators day in, and day out. Usually, that’s in the classroom with their intellect, and quirkiness. It also happens on the athletic field, and in extracurricular activities. Then sometimes a student engineers a device to help blind people navigate around their homes using sonar technology.Luis Flores

Luis Flores, a student at Yuma High School, did just that. A project that he called Arduino Navigation for the Visually Impaired and Elderly, allowed him to take home top honors at SARSEF (Southern Arizona Research, Science and Engineering Foundation). It was Flores’ first time entering the competition. On top off all of this he was invited to the International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania over the summer.

“My device is a navigation tool for the blind, and disabled that essentially gives them more confidence inside their homes using sonar technology,” Flores explained, making it sound like second nature.

Sounds easy enough, but to the rest of us a question that comes to mind is how does something like this work? Here is how Flores broke it down: “The way it works is the sonar sends out a signal that then gets sent back to a machine, and through that machine it’s able to process data that comes in. It’s based on distance at about 40 cm, it will initialize and send a signal to the buzzer to the person wearing it (on a belt) that there is an object nearby.”  

Flores wears glasses, but is far from needing a device to help him navigate around his home. The inspiration for device comes from his 96-year-old grandmother who is vision impaired, and his uncle, who is legally blind.

“I wanted to make a device that was efficient in energy as well as the distance that they could cover without having to use a baton.”

What better than to have your own family be your research subjects while developing a device that could help them “see” around the house and potentially help others in the future.

“It definitely has that potential to be BIG in terms of a project,” Flores said. “I have had a lot of questions about patents, and things of that nature, but at the moment the device itself is a prototype that isn’t far into development.”

Flores plans on continuing to research his device all of the while still helping his grandmother, and his uncle. And as Flores happily explained, his grandmother still uses the prototype device.