14-year-old Alaina Gassler from West Grove, Pennsylvania understood just how problematic the A-pillar could be when it comes to driving. So, she invented an incredible prototype that turns A-pillar invisible and thus, eliminating blind spots altogether.
The A-pillar design in a car plays a big role to support the windshield and protect the passengers in case of a crash. Ironically, it also causes accidents sometimes as it creates blind spots.
That was what Alaina realised when she noticed her mother did not like driving their family’s Jeep Grand Cherokee because its A-pillars caused blind spots
Blind spots are the areas of the road that are not visible to drivers from their usual sitting position when driving.
“There are so many car accidents and injuries and deaths that could’ve been prevented from a pillar not being there,” Alaina said in her Society for Science video.
“And since we can’t take it off cars, I decided to get rid of it without getting rid of it.”
By using a webcam, projector, 3D printed adapter, and retroreflective fabric, Alaina turned a car’s A-pillars invisible by displaying the image of the blind spots onto the pillars.
Firstly, she attached a webcam onto the A-pillars. Then, a projector that was attached to the roof inside the car was used to display the image from the webcam.
Next, she used retroreflective fabric to cover the A-pillars to allow light from the projector to reflect back onto the light source and stopping the light from bouncing in different directions
Alaina also 3D printed a special piece to let the projector to focus at close range.
Thanks to her life-saving and innovative idea, Alaina was awarded a US$25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize.
The prize is a top award in the Broadcom MASTERS, the US premier science and engineering competition for middle school students.
According to Alaina, she did not expect to beat 29 other competitors at the Broadcom MASTERS.
“I had confidence that I might win one of the STEM category prizes, because I felt like I did well in the engineering category, but once they reached the announcement for the top prize, I was out of hope,” Alaina told CNN.
“When my name was called, I started shaking so much because I was so excited.”
Alaina also told that while winning the top prize was one of her biggest achievements so far, she was proud that her invention could help her brother to drive more safely
“When I did research, I found out that there are more than 840,000 blind spot related car accidents per year just in the US, which made this project significantly more important to me,” she said.
The high school freshman at Avon Grove Charter School hopes to design a more unique prototype and patent the idea before submitting it to automotive companies like Tesla.