PROFILE — 15-year-old invents eye care device, wins global prize

Story by CBC Kids News • 2021-10-12 14:30

Hardit Singh was inspired by friend’s struggle to access eye care


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Name

Hardit Singh

Hometown 

Waterloo, Ontario

Age

15

Claim to fame

Not all heroes wear capes.

Take 15-year-old Hardit Singh, for example.

The Grade 10 student from Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute in Waterloo, Ontario, is using his brain powers for good by trying to help make eye care more accessible for all.

On Sept. 19, his science project, called Speculor, won second place in the 32nd annual European Union Contest for Young Scientists, which was an international fair held in Salamanca, Spain.

“I'm trying to help people have the ability to see.” - Hardit Singh, 15

Competitors from different countries between the ages of 14 and 20 sent their best projects and participated either virtually or in person.

Hardit said he was “honoured and proud” to be recognized, given all the other great projects in the competition.

The story behind the project

Hardit said he thought about people who struggle to access eye care after his friend’s medical eye condition went misdiagnosed for a long time.

“If this can happen in a richer and more developed area like Waterloo, what could the conditions be like in other areas which don't have as much access?”

In Canada, most people have to pay for their own eye care, although some provinces and territories cover some of the costs.

That means either paying a monthly fee for an insurance plan or taking money out of your own bank account whenever you need something like an eye appointment or a pair of glasses.

“Eye care right now is not integrated with our primary health-care system, so it becomes expensive and inaccessible,” said Hardit. “This is a problem worth solving.”

Hardit’s device, called Speculor, is a telehealth platform, which means it can provide health care to patients remotely through a digital device such as a smartphone. (Image submitted by Hardit Singh)

How does the Speculor work?

Hardit’s project is an imager, which is an electronic device that eye specialists use to record and examine images of the eye.

Speculor uses artificial intelligence — through a smartphone — to determine which patients require further screening.

It’s portable, which means a doctor can take the device to the patient instead of that person having to travel.

It also costs about $300, which is far less than the closest comparable medical device, which can cost up to $5,000.

What does the name mean?

A lot of exploration went into developing the project, said Hardit, so he played with the Latin word “speculor,” which is a verb that means to watch, examine and explore, when naming the device.

He said Speculor summed up the point of his project, not to mention the entire spirit of science.

A fundus camera is the closest medical device that compares to Speculor, except it can cost up to $5,000, while Hardit’s device only costs $300, making eye care cheaper and more accessible. (Image submitted by Hardit Singh)

What’s next?

Hardit won €5,000 ($7,500 Cdn) in prize money from the competition.

He said he plans to save some of it for university.

“I’ve become a lot more interested in physics … so I think that’s what my next goal is for the future,” Hardit said.

After representing Team Canada at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists this year, he now hopes to join the Canadian Physics Olympiad.

That’s an organization that prepares high school students with a talent for physics to compete in the International Physics Olympiad — a world championship physics competition.

Hardit also said he wants to use this momentum to create his own company and get Speculor off the ground and into the real world.


With files from Paula Duhatschek/CBC, The Morning Show/CBC
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Submitted by Hardit Singh, graphic design by Philip Street/CBC

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