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Thorold teen inventor receives prestigious innovator award

17-year-old Elijah Cosby has invented a wearable visual assistance device that is garnering national attention; 'Right now what I have is a pretty rough prototype'

This Thorold teen is taking the engineering world by storm!

17-year-old Elijah Cosby has invented a wearable visual assistance device, that is garnering national attention.

Last week, Cosby was invited up to Ottawa, where he received an Ingenious+ Youth Innovation Challenge 2023 Award from the Rideau Hall Foundation. 

“It was just absolutely incredible,” says Cosby, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “It felt almost surreal being around all of these incredible people. It opened my eyes to all of these new avenues of potentially expanding [the project] further.”

Cosby always knew he wanted to help people but it wasn’t until last year, when he enrolled in a mentorship program at Brock University, that he discovered the world of engineering.

“Through that program I was paired with a mentor Tom MacDonald,” says Cosby. “[He] said I should create a project utilizing this micro-controller. We talked about a bunch of different ideas and landed on this project here.”

Cosby’s visual assistance device uses ultrasonic sensors to measure the distance between the user and obstacles in their environment.

“These sensors are all placed at different angles and they can calculate the distances of whatever it bounces off of,” Cosby says. “ I created this algorithm code which analyzes all of those distances and decides what the best output to play to the user would be. If there’s something on the person’s right side that they need to be aware of it’ll say warning right.”

With the device, Cosby hopes to offer an affordable solution for visually impaired people to navigate unfamiliar environments.

The award from the Rideau Hall Foundation comes with $11,000 that Cosby will use to further develop his invention.

“Right now what I have is a pretty rough prototype,” he says. “I’ll be using that to make it more ready for everyday use. That’s the next step, making it more functional now that I have the technology and all that working.”

Cosby is working to fit the device in a fashionable belt bag that the user can then wear around their chest.

While the invention won’t be commercially available any time soon, Cosby hopes to eventually get an organization on board to help him test the device more broadly.

“I would love to get more feedback once I actually have the more functioning model so then I know what improvements I need to make,” Cosby says. “That part is a little unsure because I don’t know how much I’ll have to revamp it.”

Through the project, Cosby has realized he wants to devote his life to helping others with new inventions.

“I really loved working on this project so this is definitely what I want to do,” he says. ”Right now I’m thinking bio-medical engineering because I think I could help a lot of people that way. I haven’t officially accepted an offer anywhere yet but I’m pretty sure I’m going to go to McMaster [University.]”

But first, Cosby has to finish up his high school degree at Thorold Secondary School.

Luckily, his teachers have been understanding of the time spent away from school to work on his invention.

“I definitely have had support from everyone around me which has really helped me manage everything,” he says. “Once I finish graduating high school I’ll have the whole summer to focus on my project and really get it going even further. “

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Bernard Lansbergen

About the Author: Bernard Lansbergen

Bernard was born and raised in Belgium but moved to Canada in 2012 and has lived in Niagara since 2020. Bernard loves telling people’s stories and wants to get to know those that make Thorold into the great place it is
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