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Mapua student team wins Sweep Innovation and Excellence Award with Braille cellphone, obstacle detector

SEEING a blind masseuse crouching silently on a corner with a cellphone held to her head gave three graduating Mapua Institute of Technology engineering students the idea for an undergraduate project and thesis.

“I asked the receptionist what she was doing and she said the masseuse received a text message and was listening to it,” student team leader Janiena Roxanne Dirain said in Filipino. “The problem was she had to listen to the message three to four times because she couldn’t understand it since the program had an American accent and the message was in Filipino.”

Dirain, Girly Perando and Kristine Emy Matabang exchanged looks and decided right there and then on the subject of their undergraduate project under adviser Ayra Panganiban.

WINNING PROJECT. Members of the Mapua Institute of Technology team that created a Braille cellphone and an obstacle detector talk to Smart president and chief executive officer Napoleon Nazareno (left) and public affairs head Ramon Isberto at their booth during the Sweep Innovation and Excellence Awards. The Mapua team won the nationwide contest of engineering projects held last Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE. (SMART PUBLIC AFFAIRS PHOTO)

WINNING PROJECT. Members of the Mapua Institute of Technology team that created a Braille cellphone and an obstacle detector talk to Smart president and chief executive officer Napoleon Nazareno (left) and public affairs head Ramon Isberto at their booth during the Sweep Innovation and Excellence Awards. The Mapua team won the nationwide contest of engineering projects held last Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE. (SMART PUBLIC AFFAIRS PHOTO)

The three decided to find a way to render text messages into Braille and devised a lunchbox-sized gadget comprising of a microcontroller and a GSM module. The gadget renders text messages into Braille letter by letter, with the device popping up dots to make up the letters.

The project, “Wearable Obstacle Detection System and Braille Cellphone for the Blind,” won P500,000 for three students and another P500,000 in grants for the school during the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) Innovation and Excellence Awards Wednesday at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Mass production

Perando said they added an obstacle detection system, set up in a cane, to provide more assistance to the blind. The system detects obstructions of up to five meters away and alerts the blind user via vibrations. The alert becomes more frequent the closer the obstructions become.

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