Young Ham Recognized for Navigation Aid for Visually Impaired


A young radio amateur from California is one of nine Popular Mechanics “Future Breakthrough Award” winners. Shiloh Curtis, KK6ISM, developed a “hat-based, hands-free, haptic navigational aid for visually impaired individuals.” As the publication explained, after a friend from her school’s robotics club described going blind as losing “two eyes and one hand,” Curtis determined to come up with a way to free up the hand that would be wielding the classic white cane. Robotics was the key.


“A robot is blind until you put sensors on it,” she told Popular Mechanics. “Why don’t we put sensors on the blind, so they can navigate like robots?”

She combined a wide-brimmed hat, vibrating motors, and a robot vacuum cleaner’s laser distance sensor to come up with the wearable device that warns the wearer of obstacles through vibrations.

Shiloh Curtis is a junior at Laughing Thunder Academy in Sunnyvale, California. She has been recognized as the winner of California State Fair “Project of the Year” and was an Americas Regional finalist in the Google Science Fair. She is the daughter of Dave Curtis, N6NZ. — Thanks to Ward Silver, N0AX, and Bob Wilson, N6TV