14-Year-Old Invents Solution For Blind Spots, Wins National Science Fair
When she realized there wasn't a good technology in place to solve the problem, she got to work.
Even though she isn't legally able to drive for another two years, 14-year-old Alaina Gassler from West Grove, PA came up with a solution to help keep people safe behind the wheel.
Gassler (pictured below) recently beat out over 80,000 other competitors at the Public's Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars) science and engineering competition. She's invented a fix for blind spots in cars so that drivers can clearly see what's going on around them when their vision is blocked by the structure of a car's A-frame.
The eighth grader says she usually has to think for a while to come up with an idea for a science competition, but this time the idea came naturally. Her grandmother recently scraped the paint on her car when she hit a pole because it was in the car's blind spot.
"I wanted to find a way to get rid of them," Gassler told Popular Mechanics . "And my older brother Carter just started to drive, so it was a big safety concern."
Here's how Gassler's invention works. Cameras that are secured on the outside of a car's A-pillar record the surroundings. Then, the images are sent to a roof-mounted projector that sits over the driver's head. The images are then projected onto the inside of the car's A-pillars, making them "invisible," so drivers can see what's being blocked by the pillars from inside the car.
"The camera is mounted on the outside of the A-pillar, records what's behind it, sends that video feed to a projector that's over the driver's head, and projects it onto the pillar," Gassler explained.
Some newer vehicles do have blind spot monitors that use blinking lights to tell the driver that they're drifting toward something that they can't see, but drivers can still miss objects in their front blind spots if the A-frame pillars that support the car's windshield are too thick.
Gassler has already thought of ways to improve her project by using LCD monitors (like the ones found in TVs) to adapt to the changing light conditions when someone is driving. She wasn't able to include the monitors in her original prototype because of the cost. Now that she's won $25,000 as part of her Broadcom MASTERS award, she can complete the design.
Gassler and her father are working on getting a patent for the technology, which she hopes to someday sell to a worthy manufacturer.
"Tesla is always looking for the future in their cars and I feel like my project would be something they'd be interested in," she said.
For now, she's enjoying her success and the fact that she's quickly becoming a role model for a future generation of engineers.
"I'm really happy I got to be a part of that," she said, referring to the MASTERS competition. "A bunch of little kids from my school came up to me and said congratulations and a bunch were little girls that looked happy about it."
Gassler (middle) joins the other winners of the MASTERS competition -- all girls!
(Source: images & video Broadcom M.A.S.T.E.R.S Facebook )