Nine-year-old Mihika Sharma has won the BT Young Pioneer Award, part of the AbilityNet Tech4Good awards, for her Smart Stick invention for blind people.
Mihika started developing her Smart Stick invention at only six years old, after witnessing a blind woman stumble while crossing the road.
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The Smart Stick has right and left vibrating alerts, a water sensor, LED lights, and a camera with AI capability to recognise and track obstacles that a normal stick cannot. It helps blind and visually-impaired people walk more safely and with greater independence.
As part of the prize, Mihika will receive £5,000 worth of tech equipment of her choice, as well as sessions with BT experts to help develop her project.
Mihika said: “I was so excited to be shortlisted, and I can’t believe I’ve won! My brother Arnav was a part of the Tech4Good awards in 2016 and that really inspired me to start thinking more about how technology can help other people. I can’t wait to work with BT to develop the Smart Stick further so that we reach more people who really need it.”
Robin Christopherson MBE, awards judge and head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet, said: “Mihika’s ingenious entry combining several smart technologies and has the potential to help considerably improve the lives of many blind and low-vision white cane users.
“Incorporating a range of sensors, the Smart Stick assists the user in several ways; to avoid hazards such as deep puddles, as well as giving important haptic feedback via Bluetooth audio – a potentially life-saving feature for those who are deafblind. Add in the customisable 3D-printed cane for smaller children, and this one’s a clear winner.”
Joshua Lowe, a 15-year-old pupil won the highly commended award in the Young Pioneer category, for his Edublocks invention, an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop tool to help young people code with the programming language Python 3. The tool has already been rolled out in various schools across the UK.
Joshua and the other finalists will receive tickets to explore Bletchley Park, the site of famous World War Two codebreakers including Alan Turing.
More information on the Tech4Good Awards is available at www.tech4goodawards.com/about/