A Real-Time Text-to-Braille Converter, an Open-Source Smart Add-On System for Wheelchairs or a method to design a better Prosthetic Foot, all of these college projects were this year's winner of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize.
The Lemelson-MIT Program announced the winners of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize after a nationwide search for the most inventive college students. The Lemelson-MIT Program awarded $115,000 in prizes to four undergraduate teams and five individual graduate inventors. Each winning team of undergraduates received $10,000, and each graduate student winner received $15,000. The winners of this year’s competition were selected from a diverse and highly competitive applicant pool of students from colleges and universities across the country.
"The 2017 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winners show exceptional inventiveness and creativity in solving real world problems," said Stephanie Couch, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. "Through their outstanding accomplishments and commitment to mentoring younger students, these promising inventors are inspiring a new generation of problem-solvers."
The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize is a national collegiate invention prize program, supported by The Lemelson Foundation, which celebrates young inventors that have designed and built prototypes of inventions to solve social problems.
"These students display the brilliance and hope of their generation," said Dorothy Lemelson, Lemelson Foundation chair. "We are proud to recognize them for their achievements."
2017 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Winners:
Tomás Vega Gálvez and Corten Singer of the University of California at Berkeley, $10,000 Lemelson-MIT "Drive it!" Undergraduate Team Winner for an open-source smart add-on system for wheelchairs. Vega and Singer created WheelSense, a modular, customizable add-on system for wheelchairs that provides spatial awareness for visually impaired users to identify obstacles and ease their navigation. It has three features: frontal staircase detection through auditory feedback, backward obstacle-avoidance assistance through auditory feedback, and lateral ramp-edge detection through haptic feedback. They hope to disrupt the expensive market for assistive technologies for the disabled community by making their technology open source.
Chandani Doshi, Grace Li, Jessica (Jialin) Shi, Chen (Bonnie) Wang, Charlene Xia, and Tania Yu of MIT, $10,000 Lemelson-MIT "Use it!" Undergraduate Team Winner for a portable, real-time text-to-braille converter. Doshi, Li, Shi, Wang, Xia, and Yu, undergraduates in mechanical engineering, materials science and engineering, and electrical engineering and computer science, are developing a portable, real-time text to braille converter called Tactile. This device allows people who are visually impaired to take a picture of printed text, and the text will be transcribed to braille on a refreshable display.
Katy Olesnavage of MIT, $15,000 Lemelson-MIT "Cure it!" Graduate Winner for a method to design a better prosthetic foot. Olesnavage, a grad student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering who also works with the MIT Tata Center, invented a process to create high-performance, mass-producible, low cost prosthetic feet. This process gives prosthetic foot designers rules and guidelines about how to produce a product that will most closely replicate typical walking motion. Her process looks to reproduce the behavior of a biological ankle and foot by determining the shape, size and material of a prosthetic foot structure and then calculating how it will bend in response to a certain amount of weight.