Raghav Ganesh is a 13-year-old whose own vision—both literally and figuratively—is helping the visually impaired. Raghav was one of 10 national winners in the 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. Outstanding student volunteers are now being sought to enter the 2016 competition.
After watching a documentary, Raghav was “stunned” to learn that 90 percent of the blind are unemployed and 82 percent are 50 years of age or older. That inspired him to design and build a device that uses sensors to detect objects beyond the reach of the white canes used by many visually challenged people.
This California middle school student also learned that the white cane is the primary mobility aid for the visually impaired. Since Raghav had a toy-building hobby and likes “tinkering with electronics and computers,” he thought he could engineer an add-on device to the cane. Working with his local center for the blind, he used center clients to test his invention and improve it based on their feedback.
“The biggest challenge with my project was figuring out the exact need of the end user. Specifically, I tried to determine why the existing alternative solutions did not work. … I worked with my blind center over a period of several months, and this helped me understand the needs and difficulties of the visually challenged.”
He was the state middle level winner for California in the 2015 Prudential program, earning him a $1,000 cash prize and a trip to Washington, D.C., in May. There, he joined other state honorees for a four-day event, including a gala awards ceremony. It was during that trip to the nation’s capital that he was named one of 10 national winners, who receive a $5,000 cash prize, as well as a $5,000 grant to award to the charity of his or her choice. Raghav awarded his grant to his local center for the blind.
Raghav’s helper instincts have not ended with this award—if anything, it has fueled new endeavors. “The project has inspired me to take up more, tougher challenges. … I have been working on a project to help neurodiverse autistic people avoid a functional challenge. My new innovation predicts and prevents autistic meltdowns.”
Do you know any students in grades 5–12 who have made outstanding service contributions to your community? NASSP is a co-sponsor of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, the largest youth recognition program focused exclusively on student community service. The program is accepting applications from students through November 3. Visit the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program website to learn how to implement the program in your school.