PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Local high school students Jonathon Walker and Alex Johnson have been developing a device that turns text into braille for some time and now they’re working with a law firm to get a patent for it.
When the students first won the science fair in Pensacola several months back, the braille system was a mere prototype. It was too large in size for portable use and still had some cleaning up for it to be applicable in society.
Those days are now over.
After working for several months to improve their device, Walker and Johnson were able to shrink the size dramatically, but not hinder its performance. The cells they were using inside the device were about 30 centimeters in diameter and the improved device is using cells that are 10 centimeters in size.
The two Rutherford High students submitted their device with a video presentation to the national Invention Convention and were awarded the opportunity to receive a patent. That’s when it hit home for the both them.
“It was surprising and then it went from shocked to excited,” Walker said. “I wasn’t paying attention much to the award ceremony, but my parents were tuned in and it was a sense of relief because of all the hard work that went into it.”
“It felt good because it shows that a law firm believes it has some real world applicability to it,” Johnson said.
According to Walker and Johnson, they came up with about 11 different versions of the device until they settled onto the one they have now. They said they are close to getting the braille system to the point where somebody can speak into it and it will produce.
With both students having to juggle classes during the COVID-19 pandemic and finishing their project, Rutherford High School Principal Coy Pilson is proud of both Walker and Johnson.
“They’re wonderful young people and I probably would have quit,” Pilson said. “I don’t think they see challenges, they just see problems to solve.”
Pilson added that both students are conscience individuals and pointed to an instance where Walker was concerned about students having internet access during school closure.
Walker and Johnson even went as far as to use the school lab, but stayed on opposite sides of the room, so they could social distance. Even their video presentation to the national Invention Convention was done 6 feet apart.
Pilson added that both students are an example of what Rutherford has to offer and he’ll put his students up against anybody.