Glaucoma is an incurable eye condition that currently affects over 3 million people in the United States. Starting with their peripheral vision and extending inward, patients slowly go blind. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma affects people young and old, with 10 percent of patients losing eyesight even with proper medical care. If the symptoms are caught early enough, doctors can address the issue by relieving pressure, but sometimes they are too late. There is no cure after serious symptoms have set in, only methods to slow the loss of sight, but there are ways to help patients compensate for their vision loss.
Malik Farrakhan, a freshman at Loy Norrix High School, heard about this problem and wanted to take action, so he designed a prototype pair of glasses that will help fill in the gaps for people with glaucoma. The glasses redirect vision from outer edge of your sight to the center of your eyes using semi-reflective film. This will help people with glaucoma see around their peripheral vision without regaining eyesight. Though it can’t help the fully blind, anyone with partial loss of peripheral vision would benefit from this.
Farrakhan gained inspiration for the glasses from the spy glasses he saw as a kid, the ones that reflect light so you can see behind your head. He is using the same technique to help people compensate for their loss of peripheral vision.
“I just wanted to help people. I found it [glaucoma] on the internet and thought that I could do something about it,” explained Farrakhan.
With his idea in hand, Farrakhan got to work. Backed by the expertise of Gregory Dotson, an optometrist based in Battle Creek, he improved the drawings and fabricated his prototype.
“Making the glasses was the hardest part,” Farrakhan said, “but it was the most fun.”
Farrakhan’s hard work payed off on April 29th. During the Kalamazoo branch ACT-SO competition, the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, he won a gold medal for Medicine and Health.
“I didn’t expect to win because I’m a freshmen; freshman don’t usually get gold,” said Farrakhan.
The ACT-SO is a competition held by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to encourage academic and cultural achievements among African American students. The competition holds a wide range of categories, including the performing arts, architectural design, engineering, culinary arts and many more.
For his success, Farrakhan has the opportunity to compete at the ACT-SO national level, where his prototype will be put up against the other gold-medal winners from around the country. To prepare for his next big step, Farrakhan will patent his glasses and make them more functional.
“Dr. Dotson is helping me make the prototype better. He knows what they need to be better.”
This project is still a rough-draft, but Farrakhan plans to refine and perfect his prototype for the upcoming competition.
“I want to change building materials, they’re kind of janky right now. I’m trying to make them cheaper so that they can be more accessible,” explained Farrakhan.