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Undergrad team wins The University of Akron hackathon

The University of Akron held their annual hackathon the weekend on October 6th. Over 125 students and over 25 entries competed for a grand prize of $1000.

The CSE Department was represented by a team of 3 undergraduate students, Karthik Pillalamarri, Jude Rajasekera and Pulkit Ayra. Here is their experience:

Our team of three went into Hakron with the goal of creating a product that could have a positive impact in the real world. When team member Pulkit got soap in his eyes while showering, he realized how difficult it is to blindly navigate a world built for those with functioning vision, and so the idea for Super Sombrero was born.

We looked into current methods used by the visually impaired to help navigate numerous environments, but we were unhappy with the existing solutions. Our team designed a headpiece, equipped with an array of ultrasonic sensors, to measure distances within the user’s field of vision in order to give them auditory feedback about their surrounding environment. The “Super Sombrero” takes the sensor inputs and alerts the user when and where objects are detected in reference to them self through earphones or a speaker. Users are alerted of objects directly in front, slightly left, directly left, slightly right, or directly right of them if the object is within a preset threshold distance.

Here is the link to a demonstration of our prototype:

Our hope was that this headpiece could not only increase the mobility of visually impaired individuals, but also provide a sense of confidence to seek out the same opportunities and experiences as everyone else. A tertiary goal was to expand the domain of wearable tech to devices that could help the handicapped.

Our team took our Grand Prize victory at Hakron as a form of preliminary product validation.

This became inspiration to create a marketable product that will assist the blind and visually impaired in their everyday lives. Going forward, we plan to continue to develop this prototype by scaling it down to a practical size for everyday use in addition to increasing the precision and accuracy of the object detection.