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Jul
31
2018

Latvian high school students develop next-generation cane for the blind

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High school students Eriks Eduards Lapsa, Georgs Krops and Agris Codars returned home to Valmiera from the Junior Achievement Europe Enterprise Challenge in Riga having founded a new start-up: Safe & Stable, marketing a new smart-cane for the blind.

When asked the name of their positions in the newly founded company, the boys smile.  So far, they've worked on everything together.  Nevertheless, they've each fallen into their natural role in the company:  Georg is the CEO, Agris is in charge of manufacturing and Eriks is the computer programmer, who as needed also fills the role of marketing professional.  It was Ēriks who first came up with the idea of a smart-cane.

"I was in Cēsis when I noticed a blind person waiting at a crosswalk.  A Tesla drove up and stopped, but the man didn't notice because the car was quiet.  People are used to hearing a car drive up, but I realized that the situation can often arise, where someone with a seeing disability can't hear an object or car that might be in their way," shared Eriks.  "I started discussing with other visually impaired people.  They admitted that they often find themselves in awkward situations where they either don't hear somebody going by, or accidentally tap someone with their cane in a public place.  Why should someone have to tap everything with a cane, if they could just go along and feel the object with a cane that reacts and sends a signal?"

Eriks made a prototype and knew that his idea could be realized.  And so a cane with a sensor was created.  A teacher from Valmiera Tech, the school which all of the team member attends, helped the boys and soon they signed up for a startup competition.  "It was a valuable experience.  That's how it all started - we took part in markets, we started learning how to deal with people," Georg remembers.  All of the boys admit that interacting with people is their biggest business challenge.  "We're all studying mechanics - that's not a profession where you have to make small talk," explains Agris.

Their win in the Latvian competition helped the team fine-tune their product, and in the international competition, they won the "FedEx Access Award" for exhibiting global connectivity.  "We were noticed. This proves that our product solves a social problem and has great potential for growth", Georg says of the win.

The next step: officially founding their startup and continuing to move forward.  The cane's second version is now available for purchase, available by contacting one of the team members.  Soon they will also be available on the startup's website.  The boys are currently working towards increasing the scale of manufacturing, as well as dealing with the issue of how to customize the cane so that it can help more people around the world.