Our BT Young Pioneer Award celebrates the next generation of tech individuals, groups and entrepreneurs that are creating innovative new technology to help transform lives. This technology could support anything from sustainability to mental and physical health. This award is launched in partnership with BT who is offering up to £10,000 in funding to the winner, in addition to BT experts who will be volunteering their time to support the winner with their idea. As the Tech4Good awards open for nominations, we wanted to highlight some past winners of the award. 

Last years’ winner Mihika Sharma came up with the idea of her tech creation, Smart Stick, when she was just five years old after witnessing a blind lady cross the road and nearly trip over a step while crossing. Even though she was very young at the time she had a lot of technology knowledge from watching her brother work with sensors. Then with her idea in mind, she sketched her initial design and was entered into the Primary Engineer Leaders Award competition.

Mihika’s Smart Stick can help both blind as well as deaf people, to help them build up confidence in walking alone by alerting them about obstacles. The Smart Stick takes them to their destination using the Bluetooth and the phone GPS system  – guiding them along the path using right and left vibrations according to the navigation instructions, this will also help prevent injuries.

The Smart Stick design has:

  • Two ultrasonic sensors to detect obstacles
  • A water sensor at the tip to detect puddles
  • A rechargeable battery
  • Bluetooth connection – connecting the vibrating motor which pairs with smartphone GPS
  • Two motors in the handle to tell the person where to turn. When there is an obstacle both the motors vibrate
  • A remote so that if the stick is misplaced it can be located
  • Smart Stick is made by 3D printing, so the size can be altered according to the height of the person
  • Its handle has a split from where the stick will be held – right and left are written in Braille here
  • A camera using Artificial Intelligence can be installed with Raspberry pi just in front of the box
  • The stick also has LED lights so it can be seen in the dark

Mihika ended up becoming the youngest winner of the Primary Engineers Leaders Award in 2016, and UCL was so impressed with her design that they invited her in. Third year engineering students then helped her build her first prototype. She was invited to show her Smart Stick in the Global Accessibility Awareness day in May 2017, and has received very positive feedback. She has started work on adding other features, but will need experts to help her develop this further and make her stick a reality for visually impaired and deaf people. Mihika’s Smart Stick has got various benefits and currently there is no other product in the market with all these features. 

Another previous winner of the award was Water Watcher which was developed by a team of four home educated students, and looks to provide a simple and affordable solution to the problem of running taps and water wastage worldwide.

The Water Works team include Alex Lynch (16), Elye Cuthbertson (14), Atticus Ticheli (12) and Saul Cuthbertson (9) who designed the device as part of an engineering competition which included solving a world water problem. 

Water wastage is costly and uses up precious natural resources, and the team realised that this wastage could affect many others with memory problems due to dyslexia, dementia or brain injury. Researching the current solutions available they realised there was nothing on the market that solved this, so went about designing the Water Watcher.

The Water Watcher is a small, simple and inexpensive device which fits on to any tap and once activated by the vibrations of the water, uses a timer and alarm system to alert the user if the tap is left on too long. The team wanted it to be simple to use – for those who may be less comfortable with technology – so it doesn’t need plumbing and can be easily strapped onto any sized faucet.

The prototype uses a BBC Micro:bit with inbuilt accelerometer to sense the vibration from the water, a battery pack, a simple speaker and a silicone coin purse (to protect the device from water).  In their research, the team realised that the whole device could be shrunk down using smaller micro-processors, vibration sensor, a cell battery and integral alarm. The silicone casing is small, can be any colour and uses an integral easy to use strap to attach. The device’s potential to save water and prevent flooding has been recognised by organisations such as Thames Water, WaterWise and Alzheimer’s Society.

Full entry requirements for the BT Young Pioneer Award and further details can be found here