Finalist category: BT Young Pioneer 2019
BT Young Pioneer, Finalist, Winner, 2019
Mihika Sharma has designed an amazing smart stick that can help both blind as well as deaf people.
In 2016, Manisha was helping a blind lady cross the road, when she forgot to mention there was a step and the lady nearly tripped over. This incident made Mihika (then five years old) upset and she decided to make a Smart Stick to help blind people walk safely by themselves.
Although very young, she knew a lot about technology as she used to sit with her brother Arnav and watch him work with sensors. She would ask him about everything and then try to do it herself. She sketched her initial design and was entered into Primary Engineer Leaders Award competition.
Around 350,000 people are registered as partially sighted or blind in the UK. (Source: RNIB) Mihika’s Smart Stick can help both blind as well as deaf people. It can help them build up confidence in walking alone and alert them about obstacles. It takes them to their destination using the Bluetooth and the phone GPS system – guiding them along the path using right and left vibrators according to the navigation instructions. This will 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 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 Braile 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 won Primary Engineers Leaders Award in 2016. She was the youngest winner, and UCL was so impressed with her design that they invited her in. Third year engineering students then helped her build her first prototype.
Mihika was invited to the UCL Provost’s Awards in March 2017 to reveal her design to the Dean and provost of UCL and the engineering students. She was invited to show her 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 various benefits and currently there is no other product in the market with all these features. The stick integrates various features and connects them in a way that will work very well. Her problem-solving skills to help others can be seen clearly, and she has thought about different things that can help users and give them some independence. As the data shows – there are many people with visual impairments and this solution can help them all.