A seemingly ordinary 14 year-old girl from Duisburg, whose hobbies include soldering, coding and building things, has come up with an extraordinary invention - a wheelchair that can be controlled through the eye movements of its user.
Inspired by the likes of physicist Stephen Hawkins and graffiti artist TEMP, Myrijam Stoetzer, 14, and fellow experimenter and inventor Paul Foltin, 15 - both students at Franz-Haniel-Gymnasium Duisburg - have devised a wheelchair that seeks to make the lives of those suffering from neurodegenerative diseases - such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) – a little bit better.
The best way to describe how it works is to use the creator's own words. She says:
"I have developed a wheelchair you can control by eye movements. It uses a Raspi 2B, Arduino, modified Webcam (IR-SMDs and filter) and some additional electronics. The wheelchair is a standard one, not motorized. But now it is powered by 2 wind wiper motors (from scrap) and 3d-printed drive wheels to turn the big wheelchair wheels."
Worry not if, like me, you do not exactly catch the full meaning of that, because fortunately there are many out there who do.
Stoezter and Foltin have not only devised the technology, but they have made it open source so that people can use, reproduce, and improve it, to make their wheelchair as accessible as possible, and help increase - even if just in small part, as Stoetzer herself acknowledges in her tutorial – the users' sense of freedom.
Stoetzer recently took part in the Berlin Wear-it event, a wearable electronics and fashion technology festival showcasing the work of some of the most ingenious and experimental entrepreneurs, designers, artists and generally creative people.
She is however not new to such a platform, having scooped up, together with Foltin, the First Prize at the Jugend Forscht national contest in June this year.