CSU Students Create Chemistry Tool for Visually Impaired

Mary Harrell and Hannah Turner, computer science students at Columbus State University, recently created an aid to assist visually impaired students in chemistry labs. Their tool, ChemAid, uses QR codes to provide learners with informational webpages that explain various lab equipment through auditory descriptions and enlarged text.

"We have learned about looking outside of our own perspectives and thinking about how things are perceived by someone with different needs from our own," said Harrell, a junior at CSU.

Harrell and Turner have been working on ChemAid since August of 2018, when CSU chemistry professors Rajeev Dabke and Samuel Abagez suggested the idea as a project for the computer science department. Dabke and Abagez have long been working to expand accessibility in chemistry labs for people with visual impairments, but they say that the computer science expertise of the students has been valuable in advancing their goals.

"They are really amazing students," said Abagez, "They are never tired of this project. They always have a big smile and are interested."

Now the students are taking the project to the first annual Georgia InVenture Prize Initiative. Hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the two-day competition will highlight student entrepreneurs across the state as they present their unique business solutions to judges for a chance to win up to $25,000. The Georgia Inventure Prize Initiative will broadcast live from the studios of Georgia Public Broadcasting on April 3-4.

In addition to the competition, the students have also presented the idea at the Georgia Undergraduate Research Conference, submitted an application for it to be tested with visually impaired students, and will present their work at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research in mid-April. With an investor, the students say they could expand the service to include a mobile app or to serve students with other types of disabilities.

Click here to learn more about ChemAid.