If you’re like most teens, you use hand-held electronic devices—a lot! Staring at a tiny screen for long periods of time can tire the muscles that help focus the eye’s lens. Jessika Baral, a middle school student from California, decided to create a device to strengthen eye muscles and prevent eyestrain. Her invention not only works, but it won her a major national science and engineering award and a chance to rub elbows with President Obama at the White House!
Why It Matters
- Jessika first became interested in vision because she comes from a family of eyeglass wearers. She wanted to use her engineering skills to help people with vision problems. Like any good engineer, she used the technological design process. After reading books and scientific articles to learn about vision and the eye, she began designing her device.
- At this URL, you can watch an interview with Jessika in which she talks about her device and why she invented it:
- Jessika designed and tested three different models, or prototypes. Her final prototype was a large foam disk, similar to the bill of a cap, with LED lights around the edge.
- Users of the device place it against their forehead and then try to focus on the lights as they blink on. You can see Jessica modeling her device in the picture below.
- The flashing lights require users to rapidly switch their focus from side to side and from near to far. Jessika found that using the device not only strengthened eye muscles and reduced eyestrain. It also improved peripheral vision, which is the part of vision outside the central area of focus, sometimes called side vision.
With the links below, learn more about Jessika’s device and how she applied the technological design process to improve it. Then answer the following questions.
- In an early prototype, Jessika had people try to focus on a marble rolling around in a clear plastic tube. Why did this prototype fail?
- In another early prototype, Jessika used LED rope lights, but they also failed to work well. Why?
- What evidence convinced Jessika that her device actually worked to stengthen eye muscles?
- Jessika used red LED lights for earlier versions of her device, but later switched to yellow lights. Why?