Alex Deans, a Grade 11 student from Windsor, Ontario, was recently featured by Maclean’s magazine as one of “Canada’s Future Leaders under 25”.
After seeing the effects of visual impairment firsthand at the age of 12, and recognizing that there are no commercially available devices that allow the visually impaired to navigate, he was determined to create a device that gives the blind both independence and confidence when navigating in the community.
After teaching himself how to program, he created the iAid, a novel hand-held navigation aid for the visually impaired. It uses GPS, compass, and indoor radar to direct users through both indoor and outdoor environments using tactile and audible feedback. After completing his prototype, he contacted a care home affiliated with The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, where 31 visually impaired people tested the iAid. It reduced collisions by 80%, and navigation was up to 57% faster. The iAid gave them control and confidence when navigating. They were most excited to test a device that had a potential to give them complete freedom. Incorporating community support was integral to the success of his project, and he was recently featured as a keynote speaker at the Lions Club’s annual fundraiser in Sarnia. For his scientific work, he received the Grand Platinum Award for Best Intermediate Project at the Canada Wide Science Fair, the S.M. Blair family Foundation Award, the Innovation Challenge, sponsored by Blackberry, and a gold medal.
Alex is also the director of marketing and communications at Science Expo, the largest student run non-profit that connects high school students to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). He represents over 60,000 students from 120 schools: “I believe that by working together, youth today have the vision to solve the problems of tomorrow”.
To get youth engaged in their communities, he founded Project IMPACT, a youth volunteerism campaign. As prime minister of student council, 130 students at his school raised over 4,000 dollars for relief projects in Haiti, research for leukemia and lymphoma, and donated more than 21, 000 cans over 3 years to local food banks. They also packed over 220 boxes full of school supplies for children in developing countries. He started the Canadian Cancer Society’s Youth Troop in his school, and is now promoting cancer awareness across Windsor-Essex County.
As a part of youth activism and advocacy, he is a member of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Committee. The members represent youth in the community, and build relationships to better serve them.
“Together, youth can make a difference. With new, innovative ideas we have the potential to truly change the world we live in.” Alex Deans
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