Two local students invent walking stick for the visually impaired

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 9:40 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Many great inventions take years to create and build. But one funny-looking contraption, built by two North Bay Haven High School students, was quick from concept to creation.

“It took about a month and a half,” Walker Verenakis, one of the creators and student at North Bay Haven High School, said. “He called me one day and he said ‘Walker, I have an idea’.”

A brilliant vision by two teens who want to make the world a little brighter for the visually impaired.

“After we first started hanging out and started to develop the idea, we eventually came up with this,” Verenakis said.

What they created is a high-tech walking stick. While walking canes have been leading the blind for hundreds of years, this one is different.

“There’s five of these sensors and they’re all pointed in different directions. They point forward, off to the side,” Henry Jiang, the other creator and also a student at North Bay Haven High School, said. “They take a reading and then convert the distance into a percentage. Closer would be a higher percentage, farther would be a lower percentage... like a bat’s echolocation.”

Jiang explained the percentages are converted into a vibration on the handle of the stick, so the user is able to tell if objects are nearby and how far they are.

While the design may just be in the prototype stages now, these young masterminds said that they believe this is just the beginning.

“Our design here is patent-pending. If our patent does get approved, we might pursue a business idea with this invention,” Jiang said. “And maybe market it, maybe improve the design a little bit, and use it to improve the lives of the visually impaired.”

As NewsChannel 7 learned, this design comes from a very personal place.

“My dad really helped with this because he’s visually impaired, he’s gone through blindness,” Verenakis said. “So he was able to help iron out a lot of the practical ideas with it.”

Both young men agree they make a good team.

“In projects where I worked alone, I would struggle with a problem for like a week.” Jiang said. “But with the two of us, we can come up with different ideas to solve that problem and we can tackle potential solutions quicker.”

The two teens say they will enter the walking stick in an invention convention this year, but for now they will be focusing on perfecting this invention before creating anything else.