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Students’ automated walking stick to help the blind get around easily

SCI & TECH
By Stephen Mburu | April 4th 2019

Ronald Kipkoech, Jared Wasonga and Nelson Odour, all physics students, are behind the innovation dubbed ‘Automation of the Blind Stick’.

“We were inspired to come up with this project after observing the dangers the blind face as they cross busy streets. They have to be in (the) company of relatives or friends whenever they want to go anywhere but with this stick, they will be in a position to move in areas that they could not in the past years,” Ronald Kipkoech, in his fourth year of study, says.

This stick uses an Arduino - a microcontroller that can be programmed and incorporated with sensors used to detect objects, and proximity sensors. The computer is used to write the code of how the blind stick works before been sent to the Arduino that works alone without an external connection.

“This microcontroller is crucial to the project and is set in a way that it can work alone after the program is installed. It draws its energy from rechargeable dry cells packing nine volts,” Nelson Odour, a third year student, says. 

“These sensors will help the blind detect any object in their path with a range of two metres. If there is an object, the blind stick has a buzzer that alerts the person to stop or change direction. The stick can alternatively use vibration motors instead of buzzers,” Wasonga explains.

Should the gradient of their path change, the buzzer notifies the person of the change for them to act accordingly. This feature is applicable when walking hilly areas or even using a staircase.

The young innovators say that the cost of the start-up equipment they use has been a challenge for them.

“The price of the required equipment is expensive since an Arduino board goes for at least Sh2,000, the proximity sensors are sold at Sh1,000 and one must have a laptop or a computer for programming. We have to forgo most of our needs to purchase them,” Kipkoech says. 

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They are, however, optimistic that their product, if produced in volumes, will be sold at Sh4,000, which is less than the cost of those in the market.   

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