Inspiring 12-Year-Old Girl Creates Tool and Technology for the Visually Impaired
Growing up in the shadow of Silicon Valley, 12-year-old Hari Bhimaraju of Cupertino, California, has always been fascinated by science and technology, and she’s putting her skills to good use by creating tools for the visually impaired.
“I’ve kind of just grown up in a house where it’s always been a thing to help people,” Hari told ABC News. “Especially the visually impaired.”
The first project she created was a periodic table teaching tool for the visually impaired called the “The Elementor” when she was in the sixth grade. She combined her love for chemistry and atoms and used a Raspberry Pi computer to create the low-cost tool. The system uses sound and voice features, and LED lights for people with low vision to describe the position of the element’s electrons.
“I started creating these tools for the visually impaired because I love learning about chemistry and I think that I want to spread that knowledge,” Hari said. “There aren’t really any great tools out there which really are specific to them.”
Hari’s project was part of the sixth annual White House Science Fair this past April. She presented “The Elementor” animated teaching tool and met President Obama. “Shaking hands with the president was, of course, amazing,” she said.
Whether it was science, Java language programming or robotics, her parents have been her No. 1 supporters.
“She is so comfortable using Stack Overflow and finding solutions to her own problems,” her mom, Gayatri Bhimaraju, told ABC News. “It’s definitely very exciting and interesting to see her combine software and hardware and try to explain things to us.”
For Hari’s father, Prasad Bhimaraju, her visit to the White House was an important moment for the family. “We being first generational immigrants,” Prasad told ABC News. “We came here and now our daughter is being invited to meet the president and show that innovation to the president. It’s a very proud moment for us.”
In keeping with her passion for science and helping the visually impaired, Hari also created a medicine management system for people living with vision loss who aren’t able to read drug container labels and package inserts. She created an iPhone app that scans the labels using a radio frequency identification system that shows the expiration dates, name of the medicine and whether it needs to be refilled.
“I can make a difference with this idea to manage medicines,” Hari said. “When I actually go to blind centers and I see how thankful the people really are, and I actually meet the person, I think that makes a huge impact.”
Hari’s talent has been noticed tech companies like Piper, where she is a student innovator.
Piper creates DIY computer kits that kids assemble to learn about electronics. “She’s built technology before. She’s been recognized for that so she understands some of the things that go into making a product, making a device that works,” Piper CEO Mark Pavlyukovskyy told ABC News. “That feedback is invaluable for this. Working with her and mentoring her allows us to understand the DNA of younger mentors.”
For Hari, it is all about learning and sharing knowledge with others. “I think it’s really exciting to be actually giving feedback to them because they’re adults, and they’re so smart,” she said. “I love being a part of that because their goals align with mine to teach kids about electronics and programming.”
Hari hopes to continue working on science app development and attend Stanford University when she graduates from high school. “I think the biggest thing is I feel I can inspire other people to do things,” Hari added. “I think it’s important that you learn what’s around you and don’t just take things for granted.”
ABC News’ Arthur Niemynski and Adam Rivera contributed to this report.