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Eighth-grader Invents Brilliant Way to Delete Drivers’ Blind Spots, Wins $25,000
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An eighth-grader from West Grove, Pennsylvania, Alaina Gassler, has invented something so brilliant it probably should’ve been obvious to automakers years ago: It’s a system that uses cameras and projectors to eliminate blindspots in cars, allowing drivers to have far more visibility of the environment around them than normal. And while future usage of the ingenious invention is obviously unclear at this point, the immediate, good news is that the fourteen-year-old inventor has been awarded a hefty $25,000 prize.

Gizmodo picked up on word of Gassler’s invention, which was announced in late October as the winner of this year’s Broadcom MASTERS competition. The Broadcom MASTERS competition is proclaimed as “the nation’s premier science and engineering competition for middle school students,” and was put on by two nonprofits that promote STEM education, including the Broadcom Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public (SSP).

The prototype, displayed in use in the video above, works exactly as you’d expect it to. The system uses a web camera mounted on the outside of a car to record the environment blocked by the car’s structural pillars (in this case, just the most-forward pillar in the cabin), and a projector that displays what’s being recorded by the web camera onto said pillars. The projector also projects the video recorded by the exterior web camera onto a reflective fabric, which helps to make the image brighter, clearer, and more focused on the driver’s line of sight.

In the description for the prototype video, Gassler notes that her invention aims to get rid of hazards due to blindspots, and that this system “has the potential to greatly reduce blind spot related car accidents.” That sentiment is echoed by President and CEO of the SSP, Maya Ajmera, who notes in a post announcing Gassler’s achievement that “[this] project has the potential to decrease the number of automobile accidents by reducing blind spots.”

In an interview video put out by the SSP (immediately above), Gassler kindly thanks the other finalists in the competition, as well as her parents. The 30 other contestants split $100,000 in prizes. Although maybe that particular thank-you should be more skewed toward her mom, who the SSP says was the inspiration for the idea after Gassler witnessed her “struggle with blind spots in their family automobile.”

What do you think of this vehicle blindspot elimination system? Do you foresee this kind of system becoming ubiquitous in vehicles, or is it unlikely to make it into mass production with the rise of cars that get rid of the need for drivers altogether? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Images: Paul Gassler