ID Grad's Cane With Sensors Earns Her Spot in Design Show


Malrey Head | Monday, November 12, 2018 | Atlanta, GA

It started as a class project and a desire to make a difference.

Now that project and desire are taking Allie Haydon, a 2018 graduate of the School of Industrial Design in the College of Design, half way around the world.

Haydon (above) and her collaborator, Kayla Hendrickson, will be presenting her project, “Make Sense,” at an international design show, the Global Grad Show, this month.

“Make Sense” is a white cane with sensors that allows the visually impaired to sense when objects are in their path. Through the use of sensors, it vibrates to let the user know how close they are to an object. It also has an ergonomic handle.

The Global Grad Show is an exhibition of graduate works from the world’s leading design and technology schools. It takes place in Dubai every November during Dubai Design Week.

In this fourth year of the show, 150 projects from 100 universities and 61 nationalities will be shown. Among U.S. schools are Parsons School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, Savannah College of Design, and Pratt Institute.

“It is not only a showcase of ideas from the brightest young minds around the world, it’s a celebration of creativity and optimism. Graduates today are faced with daunting truths such as climate change, automation, and mass migration. Each of the projects offers a restorative solution; an idea of how to make human-scale changes with the hope of bettering humankind as a whole,” said Brendan McGetrick, the show's director and curator, in announcing the show.

Haydon began her project in a spring 2018 class with industrial design Professor Roger Ball.

Through Ball, she was connected with a Gainesville, Ga., doctor. The diagnostic radiologist had visited an exhibit called "Dialogue in the Dark," and she said he recounted experiencing what life was like for a person with blindness, and was inspired to change the lives of the visually impaired

Much like the doctor, Haydon was inspired.

For the class project she worked with a user. She said the woman, known as “Six,” is an invaluable resource. "Six" has been totally blind for 10 years.

Haydon said the cane is in now in phase two of design. “We are researching the current technology that is out there, and differentiating ourselves while staying true to the purpose of Makes Sense, which is driven by the users’ needs,” she said.

She said Professor Ball encouraged her to apply to the show.

He said, “Allie’s thorough research and innovative, yet simple solution, are an outstanding example of the very best type of student design work; empathetic, innovative, and it improves the quality of life for her users. It a classic example of a user-centered design project.”

Ball will be attending the show with Haydon and Hendrickson.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said. “I want to support Allie’s success and evaluate the progress of the other top ID programs. It important to keep current with the latest trends and innovations in global design education. I will also take the opportunity to spread the word of the great work we are doing in (industrial design at Georgia Tech).”

This will be the second year Georgia Tech industrial students have been chosen to participate.

Asked about the significance of that, Ball said, “It clearly demonstrates that (our industrial design) students are creating design work that is the equal of any design school globally."

He continued, "I think that (Georgia Tech industrial designs') strengths in user research and applying technology really differentiate our students work. We are creating strong conceptual work and then we take it to the next level by actually making it work. There aren’t many design schools capable of producing smart products that actually work.”

Haydon’s project was recognized even before she graduated. In May 2018, she received the Richard John Livingstone Martin Humanitarian Design Award, taking first  place. The award is given out at the end of each school year by the School of Industrial Design.

She and Hendrickson (at right in photo) started working together in May. They have been friends for years. But while they each admire the talents of the other, it was more than friendship that brought them together on this project.

Haydon said of Hendrickson, “Coming from (materials science and engineering), her analytical mind serves her very well in many applications. She has much more experience with computer science than I do. … We really compliment each other well. Building, iterating, and ideating are very productive with opposing mindsets like ours.”

She said Hendrickson’s “primary role is to offer expertise on the computer engineering side of things, but conceptually, Kayla has been integral in differentiating Makes Sense from other patented canes on the market.”

For her part, Hendrickson said, “It was an easy step from watching her work on this project to joining the development process. I also think the idea is a great one, and even though I was a materials engineer at Tech, I have a special interest in developing my skills in electronics and robotics prototyping. This project has been a great stepping stone for me in that regard.”

Hendrickson is also a 2018 Georgia Tech grad, with a BS in Materials Science and Engineering. She is in Tech’s online masters of computer science program.

They both are immensely excited about this opportunity.

“The chance to discuss the designs with others from the design community and to get the word out about Makes Sense is HUGE!” Haydon said.

“I am beyond thrilled about this opportunity to go to an international design conference. I am continually astounded by the power of human innovation and therefore cannot wait to see what other teams are presenting this year,” Hendrickson said. “If there is anything I learned while at Georgia Tech, it is that there is an infinite amount of enthusiasm and insight to be gained from your peers.”