STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. This class is taught by Dr. Crowthers where the focus is to complete an independent research and science fair project as well as learning about science and technical writing. Dr. Crowthers is a very enthusiastic teacher who gives loads of encouragement and help during the entire STEM 1 process. This class culminates in the Mass Academy February Fair where each student presents their STEM project to be considered for WRSEF (Worcester Regional Science and Engineering Fair). Below, you can find information about my project.

Designing an Assistive Device for the Visually Impaired For Ground-Level Object and Surface Condition Detection

The objectives of this project were to develop a method to differentiate between safe and hazardous ground conditions and to develop a method to detect obstacles. The obstacle detection prototype was able to determine distances. With more time and further research, this distance information could be applied to produce haptic or audio feedback. The ground condition detection method gave proof that it is possible to differentiate between hazardous and non-hazardous surfaces using ultrasonic sensors. While the testing needs to be expanded to include the variables of distance and thickness, with more time the ground-condition detection prototype could be used to effectively differentiate between surface materials. Overall, the described methods could be used to create a device with a new form of hazard detection not currently available to individuals with visual impairments.


Graphical Abstract

Research Proposal

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Literature Review

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Engineering Need

Individuals with visual impairments have difficulty navigating while alone due to unknown obstacles and uncertainty in ground conditions.

Engineering Objective

The goal of this project was to design technologies that can be used in a device to inform the user of obstacles and hazardous ground conditions.

Background Infographic
Background Image

In order to address navigation difficulties for people with visual impairments, devices typically address the goal of obstacle detection and finding a safe route to a destination. Non-electronic solutions include the white cane, guide dogs, and tactile ground surface indicators. These devices, while effective, lack in multiple key areas. Most electronic travel aids (ETAs) aim to address and improve flaws of current widespread solutions. The most common way to do so is through obstacle detection. While there are many ways in which ETAs detect obstacles, the concept is usually the same. Detect distances from a base, and if that distance decreases, there is an obstacle. While obstacle detection is a key feature in many ETAs, there are no commercially available products to detect ground conditions.

Procedure InfographicMethods Infographic

Procedure Description

Figure #1
Ground condition detection abstract

Figure #2
Prototype detection device

Figure #3
Large signal reading image for Ice

Figure #4
Signal output collage


Discussion and Future Extentions