Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Student inventors of reading device for visually impaired to compete at Intel fair

Student inventors of reading device for visually impaired to compete at Intel fair
By Mohammed Zaatari
Daily Star staff

SIDON: Three girls from the Iman Secondary School in Sidon have been chosen to take part in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in the United States for inventing a machine that enables the visually impaired to read. Zahra Maarouf, Sana Zeidan and Dina Qaddoura are three grade 11 students who presented their invention earlier this month at the Lebanese Science Fair, organized by the Hariri Foundation and American microchip giant Intel.

Approximately 80 public- and private-school students submitted their projects at the headquarters of the Hariri Educational Center in Sidon as part of a competition for cash prizes and a chance to attend ISEF. ISEF is the world's largest pre-college science competition. Held each May, the event brings together nearly 1,500 students from 70 nations to compete for scholarships, tuition grants, internships, scientific field trips and the grand prize: a $50,000 college scholarship. A committee of university professors and technology experts chose two out of 13 Lebanese projects.

"Our machine operates under battery power and can save a lot of information in one memory card," Zeidan told The Daily Star. "It transforms words and texts registered on the memory card into electromechanical movements in the shape of Braille letters that blind people can read." The machine is 12 centimeters long, six centimeters wide and three centimeters thick. "It took us 250 hours to achieve our innovation," Maarouf said. "We presented our invention to the Economy Ministry in a bid to acquire a patent," Qaddoura added. Abdel-Wadoud Nacouzy, who monitored the girls' project, said that the machine "displays texts via an iron quill that the blind person can hold." "By holding the quill, the person can continue or stop reading whenever he/she wants," Nacouzy said. According to the young inventors, the machine was tested by Asmahan Baydawi, a visually impaired woman. "Baydawi liked our invention and offered us some proposals to include slight modifications so that it would totally fit any blind person," Qaddoura said.

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