23 April 2010
Nablus, West Bank
Three schoolgirls from Nablus have been chosen to represent Palestine at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in California next month. The girls developed an electronic cane to help visually impaired people get around.
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The cane has sensors that buzz differently according to the surface ahead and can even indicate when someone is approaching a liquid surface.
The ingenious idea started as a simple science project. Aseel Abu Leil, Aseel Sha’ar, and Nour El Arda teamed up at UNRWA’s Askar Girls’ School, Nablus.
The theoretical side was easy but its application proved a bit more difficult, so the ninth graders approached their science teacher Jamileh Khaled for some help putting their plan into action.
Their first step was to collect data from organisations that work with visually impaired people to ask them about their basic needs.
For this purpose, the girls travelled to Nablus, Toubas and surrounding villages, and even contacted NGOs in the southern area of the West Bank.
The electronic wooden cane has a ground sensor to help visually impaired people “see” if they are approaching a hole. It can also detect liquid surfaces 60-75cm ahead, and in some instances with certain lighter colours up to 80cm.
The project was one of three finalists from UNRWA schools selected to be one among 52 projects submitted by private, public and UNRWA schools for representation at the Palestine Science and Technology Exhibition.
From there, it was one of just three projects from this exhibition were chosen to represent Palestine at the Intel ISEF in the United States – the world’s largest pre-college science and engineering competition.
The three 14-year-olds are ecstatic to be able to represent Palestine to an American audience at the fair in San Jose, California. They are busy working on their prototype before the trip in May – and are hoping to win the fair’s top prize of US$50,000.