Savannah Summers, Jwanna Yaqub and Amaya Santana, freshmen at d.tech, built an arm band that can sense the denomination of paper currency, to protect blind people from being scammed. The project is the product of a collaboration between d.tech and Oracle Education Foundation, designed to engage female students in technology and engineering. The team of students said the scanning band was inspired by a member of Summers’ family who is blind and struggles with sorting bills.
“We decided that we wanted to make a product that can help people,” said Summers. The band features a sensor that can detect the color difference between $1 and $5 bills when money is run across its surface, and then plays a tune declaring to its user the value.
Based on the success of the initial project design, Oracle has said it would be willing to fund the team building a more complete version of the product, said Summers. Yaqub said the experience has broadened her horizons regarding what she might be capable of through innovation and design. “It makes me really curious, I don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I created something to really help.” Summers agreed, and said the project could be the beginning of their budding career as entrepreneurs. “Who knows, maybe we’ll be successful,” she said. Santana said the project, and experience at d.tech, has encouraged her to consider pursuing a career in engineering or architecture.
The charter school offers students an opportunity to chart their own course through curriculum soaked in technology, innovation and engineering. Teachers set the standards that students must achieve, but students are allowed the agency to learn at their own pace.
Yaqub said she appreciated the opportunity to be responsible for setting her own schedule, as that allows her to prioritize her tasks and prepares her for the unpredictable nature of the real world. Summers echoed those sentiments, and stressed the importance of responsibly managing her workload. “You really have to keep yourself on track,” she said.
The school is co-located on the Mills High School campus, which has been a point of contention in the past, but will move to its own facility in a building owned by the San Mateo Office of Education on Rollins Road in Burlingame next year. The program collaborating with Oracle is part of the school’s intersession courses, which are two-week periods that occur four times a year allowing students to work with tech professionals on projects about which they are passionate.
Another team of students created a glove that allows hearing impaired to communicate with people who don’t understand sign language by turning the hand motions into words. Summers said the exposure she and her teammates gained during the project was invaluable. She said she learned to work as designer from the perspective of the people who will be using the product, which breeds empathy that helps guide the team toward finding a solution.
Teammates agreed that programming the arm band was the most challenging element of the project, as none of them had any prior experience. Yaqub said designing the arm band, and taking classes at d.tech, has opened a world of possibility for future endeavors she never previously considered. “It’s too early to tell what I want to do,” she said. “This has given me so many different options.” firstname.lastname@example.org (650) 344-5200 ext. 105