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Blind Invention Competition builds confidence for young visually impaired inventors

Posted at 5:24 PM, Dec 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-04 18:29:14-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Make48 and the Kansas State School for the Blind (KSSB) hosted the first-ever Blind Invention Competition over Dec. 2-4.

Visually impaired and blind students from across Kansas came to compete in teams for the chance to win $2,000 and the opportunity to compete on a national level.

This year's challenge clue was "chickens in the kitchen."

Students were asked to create a unique egg crate for fresh eggs. The task involved creating a prototype, coming up with a name and brand, and then pitching it to a panel of judges.

All of this must be done in 48 hours.

"I lost my vision at the age of 10, and then from then on, I always felt like my disability was something that was constantly an obstacle and it caused negativity around my life," said Hasham Syed, a competitor and freshman at Wichita State University.

He went to KSSB and was told about the competition by former teachers.

While Syed said he'd love to win, that's not what it's all about for him.

"Being in this type of environment definitely has an impact on making me more comfortable, not only talking to other people but also kind of understanding who I am as a person and that I’m not defined by my blindness," Syed said.

But it doesn't come without obstacles for both competitors and hosts. Syed said the design portion, the most visually demanding piece, was the hardest.

"It was kind of a struggle to be like, 'Hey, we can do this,'" Syed said. "But it’s definitely been helpful to have staff members who are here for us and helping us throughout the process."

In addition to the staff, state-of-the-art technology, like 3D-printing machines, was available for creators.

Tom Gray, CEO and co-founder of Make48, told KSHB 41 the idea to open this competition up to the visually impaired was risky as they did not know how it would fare.

But since the response has been so fantastic, he believes there is no doubt they'll continue in years to come.