First Impressions

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Menomonie is a beautiful city. From the lake and the trails to the campus, the well kept landscape gives a sense of community in the area. One can see this in town, everyone knows each other and genuinely cares for eachother. Every person I’ve ran into has been happy to see me even though they’ve never seen my face. Walking through campus, I can tell that it is a fun place to be. The areas around the dorms are conducive to socializing and having fun. Unfortunately there are not many students right now, but I can imagine these areas are packed in nice weather (winter can be harsh!).

The REU program has a great structure. I have the freedom to attack my project from any angle, and with the support of several great faculty members and the Vocational Rehab Institute, I have connections if I need help. Also, given that I have this freedom, I can pursue this project with great intensity. I can dedicate all day and even a night if I like where it’s headed. In addition, the resources I have to complete this project are great; the labs and fabrication areas make possibilities just about endless.

My project revolves around computer vision and robotics. We all may know someone that uses an electric wheelchair. As the technology surrounding them becomes more cost efficient, they’ll become more prevalent. That makes room for new features to better assist people who are disabled. My project aims to help people who need a wheelchair but may not be able to drive it as well as others. I’ve proposed putting a camera system  on the wheelchair with algorithms that help steer the user. This idea gives the driver the independence to choose their destination and path, but gives the wheelchair the power to ensure they are taking a safe route. By analyzing the objects in the frame, the wheelchair can determine that the user is making safe choices and can help or hinder their current route. I hope that I can do this for a relatively cheap price, that way users can afford this technology out of pocket and won’t need to depend on subsidies that may not get approved. Also, this project should be applicable to any electric wheelchair present and in the future. Thanks for following along!

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