Nine-year-old inventor wins award for ingenious Smart Stick for the blind

18 Jul 2019

Mihika Sharma with her Smart Stick. Image: Nelson Bostock Unlimited

Nine-year-old Mihika Sharma has been named the 2019 BT Young Pioneer Award winner for her Smart Stick for the blind.

As part of this year’s AbilityNet Tech4Good awards in the UK, a young inventor with a lot of promise has walked away with one of the major prizes. Nine-year-old Mihika Sharma was named winner of the BT Young Pioneer Award for her device, which she called the Smart Stick.

Its purpose is to take the familiar walking stick used by the blind and visually impaired to navigate streets and open spaces. Sharma first began developing her Smart Stick aged just six after witnessing a blind woman stumble while crossing the road.

This new stick utilises right and left vibrating alerts, a water sensor, LED lights, and a camera with computer vision capabilities to recognise and track obstacles. For her work, Sharma will receive £5,000 worth of tech equipment of her choice, as well as focused sessions with BT experts to help develop her project.

“I was so excited to be shortlisted and I can’t believe I’ve won!” Sharma said.

“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.”

AbilityNet’s Robin Christopherson, one of the award judges, commented on Sharma’s success: “Mihika’s ingenious entry combining several smart technologies has the potential to help considerably improve the lives of many blind and low-vision white-cane users.”

He added that its haptic feedback makes it a “potential life-saving feature for those who are deafblind”.

The Highly Commended Award in the BT Young Pioneer Category went to Joshua Lowe and his creation, EduBlocks. This is an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop tool that helps young people code with programming language Python 3 and has already been rolled out across various UK schools.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic