Teen's Homemade Solution for In-Car Blind Spots Earns Her $25,000 Prize
Good ol' American ingenuity.
A Pennsylvania teenager is the star of her town and the winner of a whopping $25,000 award for inventing a clever solution to blind spots, seemingly accomplishing more at a science fair than most automakers have in years in regards to A-Pillar blind spots.
Alaina Gassler, an eighth-grade student from West Grove, Pennsylvania, became the recipient of the Samueli Foundation Prize at a science competition for middle schoolers after designing a solution for blind spots created by oversized vehicle roof pillars. By placing a webcam on the outside of a car’s A-Pillar, Gassler then used her creativity and a projector to reflect what the webcam showed onto the car’s pillar, essentially making it “disappear” by showing drivers what they couldn't see.
Like most inventions, her idea wasn’t without problems at first. Upon initial assembly, Gassler found that the projector’s image was often blurry and out of focus because of the short projecting surface, but also because projectors are typically designed to project images from a distance greater than a couple of feet. To solve the problem, she utilized a special one-way reflective fabric and some 3D-printed components that brought the projected image into focus.
The components and fabric added also prevent other vehicle occupants, such as the one sitting in the front passenger seat, from being constantly blinded by the projector. They also make sure the image remains stable and therefore legible by the driver.
While in its beginning stages, this relatively simple solution addresses a problem found in tens of millions of cars around the world. All-in-all, Gassler's idea could have the potential to help evolve blind-spot information and detection systems on future automobiles.