“The idea came to me when I saw my grandmother trying to grasp the TV remote and the remote was slipping from her fingers. And I asked myself: How can I solve this problem?” Charalampos Ioannou says in a homemade video posted on YouTube.
His answer was the exoskeleton glove – a straight-out-of-sci-fi power-enhancing device that would sit on a weak arm like his grandmother’s. Certainly not the response you would expect from a 17-year-old high school student living in Athens.
Footage of Ioannou describing his concept can be seen on Google’s official site. And thanks to his futuristic concept, the Greek student is one of the 15 finalists headed to the Google Science Fair international competition.
Organized by the California-based Internet giant in partnership with CERN, the LEGO Group, National Geographic and Scientific American, the competition is open to students between the ages of 13 and 18 from around the globe.
The winner will be announced on September 23. Before that, the results of the popular vote will be made known on September 4. The top vote-getter will receive a $10,000 scholarship.
Ioannou, who last November became the youngest TEDx Athens speaker, was picked from among thousands of applicants from more than 120 countries.
His proposal involves the construction of a metallic prosthetic glove that supports the movement of the human palm so as to help individuals suffering from upper-hand disabilities. Using sensor-based technology, the glove will be able to detect the kinetic stimulus of the user. The arm’s movement will then be amplified by means of servo motors. A custom-built algorithm will allow the machine to distinguish between arduous tasks, like toting a hammer, and more delicate moves, like holding an egg.
The grand-prize winner will receive a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands with National Geographic Expedition and a $50,000 scholarship from Google. Age-category winners will receive a visit to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, a behind-the-scenes tour of the LEGO factory in Denmark and more.
Ioannou, who wants to study electrical engineering, says that winning the competition will allow him to advertise, finalize and mass produce his project with the aim of making people’s lives easier, or at least a little less painful.
“I have always been curious about how things function. Every toy I had was taken apart,” he says.
Ironically, his childish curiosity could one day help people like his grandmother.