Teen set to compete in Google contest

Teen set to compete in Google contest

Hemawit Varith is seen with his homemade hearing aid. (Photo by Panumate Tanraksa)
Hemawit Varith is seen with his homemade hearing aid. (Photo by Panumate Tanraksa)

Chiang Mai: A 13-year-old student from Chiang Mai is set to take part in Google's Science Fair and share his new hearing aid device with the world.

Hemawit Varith, a seventh grader (Mathayom 1) at Varee Chiangmai International School, is preparing to present his invention next month at Google's headquarters in California, US, after he secured a berth in the final round of the science competition among 20 kids, between 13 to 18 years of age worldwide.

Google had challenged enthusiasts to look for new ideas and solutions for problems that were "worth solving".

This led Hemawit to address a major health issue that affects a number of people -- hearing impairment.

"More than 422 million people worldwide suffer from some form of hearing problem," Hemawit told the Bangkok Post.

"I just want to help them."

The boy spent many days thinking of what he could do. He talked to several people with hearing disorders, however, his eureka moment did not come until he picked up a guitar to play while watching TV.

He found it hard to hear the strumming sounds which led him to bend his face closer to the instrument, he said.

"When my chin touched the guitar, its sounds became louder and I heard it more clearly," Hemawit recalled.

This gave him the idea of inventing a homemade bone conduction hearing aid device, a prototype he called "EarZ".

It was a good start but not enough. Talks with several people suffering hearing impairment also led Hemawit to believe that such people needed to improve their speaking too.

These people tended to speak "without power", Hemawit observed. Their voices were too soft, low and could be barely heard. That is why they use sign language for communication with others.

Hemawit wanted to help these people communicate by using his experience of training his voice.

When he first started learning to sing, he was taught to use his diaphragm to produce powerful sounds.

This technique could be also applied to deal with speaking problems, he said, pointing to the use of a diaphragm voice training exercise, known as DVTE.

The hearing aid and DVTE must be used together to improve quality of life.

When they hear the sounds, they will have more "courage" to speak out with confidence, Hemawit said.

The boy has already tested the two approaches among 20 people.

"Technology can help people in this digital age and that it is very easy to learn how to use all the new technologies online", he said.

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