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Palestinian Teens' Invention Helps the Blind
April 28, 2010

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An obstacle-finding walking stick that will be on display at the world's largest science fair in May in San Jose, Calif., is the brainchild of three teenage Palestinian girls. Aseel Abu Leil, Aseel Sha'ar, and Nour El Arda (from left in photo below) say they've done nothing more than fill a need.

The wooden cane is made from pine and has two infrared sensors that scan both forward and down. The cane beeps to tell the user to watch out for what's ahead or below.

The invention is noteworthy for a few reasons. First of all, it does scan both forward and down, a combination that existing cane-scan devices don't have. Secondly, the cane was invented by three teenage girls, one of whose aunt is blind. Thirdly, the girls' hometown, Nablus, on the West Bank, is known much more around the world for being a hotspot in the Palestinian people's homeland struggle against Israel.

The girls' entry, built in a refugee-camp school, will be showcased as one of 1,500 finalists at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, May 9-14 at the San Jose Convention Center. The fair's organizers received millions of submissions from around the world. Finals judges will number in the hundreds, and the total prize money across 17 categories exceeds $3 million.

Funding from Intel and from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has provided for the girls' trip to San Jose, to introduce their device.

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