Young inventor honoured at Tweedsmuir

LTSS student Sarah Gordon.

LTSS student Sarah Gordon.

A Lord Tweedsmuir student’s innovative idea has provided a big boost for her university education.

Grade 12 student Sarah Gordon learned last week that she had won the local high school’s Idea MashUp contest, earning a $2,000 scholarship for her first year of university. The Idea MashUp, administered by the B.C. Innovation Council (BCIC), challenged high school students to create an invention that combines two or more pieces of technology that already exist in order to solve a problem. The contestants don’t actually have to build the device, but they do have to create a solid, practical theory and demonstrate its possible uses.

Gordon’s idea was to combine barcode scanners, bluetooth headsets, tiny portable cameras and voice recognition software to create a household information database to aid people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

With household objects branded with barcodes, the user could aim the bluetooth earpiece (with a camera mounted on top) at anything causing confusion. The user issues a voice command, the bluetooth headset relays it to a nearby computer, and the computer responds with information on the object from its bar code database.

“It’s extremely far-fetched, but all the technology has been produced,” Gordon said. “It’s just a matter of production.”

Depending on the voice command, the computer could release a range of information on household objects, ranging from basic functions up to personal anecdotes based on a particular device.

Gordon came up with the idea after volunteering at the Zion Park Manor residential care facility and working with seniors suffering with Alzheimer’s.

She said her invention may be a way to keep people in the early stages of the disease living independently at home. Ideally, she said, her device could mitigate the double-whammy of dealing with Alzheimer’s and the loss of independence from moving into a care home.

“You’re taking people who have lived a full life and asking them to move into a home where everything will be done for them,” she said.

Susan Hunter-Jivung, Lord Tweedsmuir physics teacher and Idea MashUp co-ordinator for the school, said Gordon’s idea has been forwarded to the B.C. Alzheimer’s Society. She is currently waiting for feedback from the group.

Hunter-Jivung said that Gordon’s invention, along with other entries, can be use to spur innovation in B.C.

“She is doing something that can be financially rewarding to us as a province,” Hunter-Jivung said.

Gordon plans to use the scholarship to help fund her first year of post-secondary biology studies. She has not yet decided which university to attend.

Hunter-Jivung says every high school in B.C. has an opportunity to hold an Idea MashUp, and the BCIC will award a $2,000 scholarship to a winner in each school that registers for the program.

Next up for Lord Tweedsmuir’s budding scientists will be the science fair on April 9. Eight winners from the school will move on to the nationals later in the year.

–Colin Oswin, Black Press

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