Avon Grove Charter School student’s invention seeks to fix a safety hazard for motorists
By Steven Hoffman
Alaina Gassler is not quite old enough to drive yet, but she may have devised a solution to blind spots for motorists everywhere.
Gassler, a 14-year-old student at Avon Grove Charter School, recently won the coveted $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, the top award in the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology, Engineering for Rising Stars) Competition, which is a premier science and engineering competition for middle school students.
Gassler’s project was focused on making driving safer for motorists by removing blind spots. She designed a system that utilizes a webcam to display anything that might be blocked from the driver’s line of sight. The webcam is mounted to the outside of the vehicle.
Kristen Bishop, the head of school of the Avon Grove Charter School, was positively beaming as Gassler outlined her project at the official unveiling of the new Collaboratory at the school on Nov. 1.
“This is one of the biggest awards that one of our kids has ever won,” said Bishop.
Gassler explained that she became aware of the dangers of blind spots for drivers while watching her own parents drive. She noted that she also has a brother who is just learning how to drive, which provided extra motivation for her to pursue this as a project.
“I started this project last year when I was still in middle school,” Gassler explained.
There are approximately 840,000 motor vehicle accidents each year that can be attributed to blind spots. Gassler believes that those accidents can be avoided.
The Broadcom MASTERS is a program of the Society for Science & the Public, and the goal is to inspire middle school students to follow their personal interest in the sciences to career pathways in STEM.
Gassler was one of 30 finalists. Combined, those individuals took home more than $100,000 in awards. In order to reach the finals, students had to present their projects at a state or regional science fair and display their knowledge of STEM subjects and their 21st century skills in a series of hands-on challenges.
Female students won the top five awards in the National Broadcom MASTERS Competition, which pleased Bishop.
“Who says that girls don’t like science?” she asked.