October 30, 2005.
Opelika-Auburn News, Alabama.
It's what you might expect to find in James Bonds' closet: a belt that senses danger, an automobile that can read red lights and a cane that provides weather reports.
The inventive devices are actually the creative concepts of fifth-graders at Wrights Mill Road Elementary who took part in the second annual National Federation of the Blind of Alabama Invention Competition on Friday.
Eight teams of students were challenged to design plans for practical items that could be used by visually impaired persons. Students' proposals included modifications of existing devices and completely new items.
The teams presented their ideas to the entire fifth-grade class and to Auburn mayor Bill Ham, who is a Wrights Mill alumnus.
The competition was judged by Michael Jones, Ryan Jones and Collin Frase, who are each blind and are members of the NFBA. Frase is also a fourth-grader at Smiths Station Intermediate School.
The winning entry was The Capteller which would allow blind people to enter the soda aisle of a grocery store and simply read a braille-inscribed bottle top to determine a bottle's contents.
"It's a neat little invention," Michael Jones, director of the NFBA, told the gathered group of fifth-graders. "I could go in the store and tell if it's a Coke or a Sprite."
The winning team members - Darius Carter, Parker Black and Adam Bezdec - were inspired to create their invention after they saw Michael Jones searching for a piece of candy that he had placed on a table during one of his recent visits to the school.
"That's interesting that they noticed that," said Ryan Jones, an Auburn University graduate, about the kids' observation. "But it's something we encounter all the time. It's just a daily kind of thing."
The Capteller would also enable blind persons to identify their bottled drinks after putting them down, Carter and Black said. "I look forward to it being in Wal-Mart soon," Ryan Jones told Carter and Black. Bezdec was unable to attend the competition.
Second place went to Caroline Black, Ashley Buckner, John Douglas and Abby Aulner, who created the Walk 'n' Talk, a walking stick that would come complete with a sensor lazer that could detect oncoming cars and stairs. It would also feature a speaker that announces the daily weather forecast.
Other inventive ideas included the Camera Belt 3000 that would provide directions to local businesses such as grocery stores and eateries, and the Smart Chip that would include a transparent microchip that would capture images around a blind person and transmit a signal to the brain to allow them to see.
Each member of the winning team was awarded a $25 savings account provided by AmSouth Bank.
Michael Jones said the goal of the competition is to allow students to get to know blind people and to encourage the kids to think of blindness not as a limitation but as a situation to be solved.
Parker Black and Darius Carter said it also made them appreciate their ability to see even more.
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