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Maeve's cap for sight impaired is a winner

Written on the 7 October 2015

A simple cap created by Maeve Allen-Horvat that tells the wearer when they are nearing an obstacle could transform life for the visually impaired.

The Macclesfield teenager hopes her walking aid invention will make it safer for those who cannot see to enjoy life outdoors.

And it caught the eye of judges in the annual Oliphant Science Awards earlier this month, picking up a first prize and the UniSA HP prize for the most outstanding computer programming and robotics entry.

The hat alerts its wearer, via a series of quickening beeps, when they approach an obstacle at head height, such as a branch. It fills a gap left by the white cane often used by visually impaired people, which only detects obstacles at ground level.

Maeve said she was stunned that such an invention didn't already exist and was excited to create something that could improve others' lives.

"I like trying to improve everyday life for people," she said.

"I have always wanted to try to change the world for the better and to fix things for people."

The Year 7 Scotch College student used her knowledge of ultrasonics, or high-frequency sound waves, to develop a device that could be fitted to a cap. Maeve took a prototype of her invention to the Royal Society for the Blind, which provided feedback.

"A man who had been totally blind since birth also tried it on and gave me a few ideas on how to improve it, so now I have made two designs," she said.

The 13-year-old is still refining the design, with a plan to make the device smaller so it can be sewn into the hat. She plans to patent her invention in the hope that one day it will be commercialised and made readily available to people with a vision impairment.

Maeve's love of science and problem solving also helped her secure two more accolades in the competition, which aims to encourage students across SA to embrace science. She designed a device that could be used by school students to measure the speed of sound using temperature and humidity sensors.

It attracted the praise of judges, who said it should be adopted by schools as a teaching tool. The experiment also won her a third prize and second place in the Department for Education and Child Development's young scientist award for students in Reception to Year 7.

-- Original article by Lisa Pahl appeared in Mount Barker Courier, 30 September 2015. Photo: Mount Barker Courier


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