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Romanian Teen Wins IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship

Ionut Alexandru Budisteanu has a vision of using technology to give sight, of a sort, back to the blind. The 18-year-old high-school senior from Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania, has spent the past year working on a project that combines a webcam, computer programming, and a series of small electrodes to help blind people recognize images by using their tongues.

Budisteanu’s project, “Human Computer Interface: Using Artificial Intelligence to Help Blind People to See With Their Tongue,” earned him the 2012 IEEE Presidents’ Scholarship. The honor, presented in May at the Intel Science and Engineering Fair, in Pittsburgh, comes with a US $10 000 scholarship to be paid out over the student’s four years of undergraduate study.

The IEEE Computer Society also named Budisteanu its First Individual Award winner at the Intel fair, for which he received $1000, a certificate, and a subscription to one of the society’s magazines. The teenager has won more than 100 other awards in competitions in Romania and around the world. Some of his previous projects include writing software to identify natural disasters via satellite, and a method to recognize burglars from mug shots using facial recognition programs.