A 13-year-old Indian-origin student in the US who developed a device to help visually impaired navigate has been named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2015 and granted a USD 5,000 award.

Raghav Ganesh, a seventh-grader from San Jose, California, was named one of America’s top 10 youth volunteers of 2015 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Ganesh started a quest to help the visually impaired by focusing his attention on the white canes used to detect obstacles in their path. “I saw how, despite being used for several centuries, the white cane does not provide users enough information about their environment,” said Ganesh.

Ganesh designed and built a device that uses sensors to detect objects beyond the reach of the canes. His device clamps onto the cane, uses ultrasonic and infrared sensors to detect obstacles more than six feet beyond the end of the cane and communicates this information to the user through vibrations in the cane’s handle. Ganesh secured a grant to make multiple copies and hopes to create an open patent so that organisations for the blind around the world can make the device for their clients.

For his efforts, Ganesh was one of the 10 middle and high school students named America’s top youth volunteers for 2015 at Prudential’s 20th annual Spirit of Community Awards on May 4. Ganesh and the other national honorees received USD 5,000, engraved gold medallions, crystal trophies for their schools and USD 5,000 grants from The Prudential Foundation for the charities of their choice. The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards programme represents the US’ largest youth recognition programme based exclusively on volunteer community service. This year’s winners were selected from a field of more than 33,000 middle level and high school youth volunteers nationwide.

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