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Germantown Academy InvenTeam

The Problem

People who are blind or visually impaired often cannot identify the products that surround them, whether they are shopping in supermarkets or moving around in their homes.

The Proposal

The Germantown Academy InvenTeam originally proposed to create a glove to translate Braille into speech. After the students discussed this idea with the potential beneficiaries—students at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia—they discovered their target audience did not desire such a product. They decided to change their project to invent a handheld scanner for the visually impaired that can read a barcode and translate the barcode to speech in order to identify a product.

The Invention

The team's invention uses Symbol Technology PDT 8000 and Windows CE as the operating system. It houses 128 MB RAM/164 MB ROM, which allows sufficient storage capacity for data. The device can hold up to 40,000 barcodes on its database. It is 93-99 percent efficient when held between 6-20 cm from the barcode, and it is 100 percent efficient when held at a 25-100 percent angle above the barcode.

The Process

After the Germantown Academy InvenTeam adapted its invention idea to the meet the desires of its target audience, it began to gather information and generate ideas for the new invention. The students received advice from computer and engineering consultant Kent Davidson, a cousin of one of the team members. They realized they would have to program their own scanner. They went to local supermarkets and did extensive research on scanners to learn what functions their scanner would need.

The team received motivation and support from Mel Stein, CEO and President of Healthcare Executive Partners, LLC, who thought people would be very receptive to the scanner. The students also contacted Sandy Finkel from Overbrook School for the Blind to determine what product types would be good to include in the scanner. After research and discussions with the potential beneficiaries, the team found ideal materials and created a working prototype of the scanner.