For people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, forgetting the name of the person you’re talking to can be an embarrassing reality.
Lucas Hilden, a 13-year-old student from West Hants Middle School, is hoping his science project, titled ‘The New Solution for Facial Blindness’ can help alleviate some of that emotional trauma.
Hilden’s device, which he presented at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Fredericton earlier this month, earned him a gold medal in his age bracket and a challenge award for ‘most innovative.’
“Basically there are a series of diseases, like Alzheimer’s, dementia… and all of these diseases have symptoms where (the individual) is unable to recognize faces,” Hilden said.
What Hilden’s project does is take the facial recognition aspect out of the person’s responsibility and uses a computer to assist in the task.
“When the user wants to know who someone is, they click the button in their hand and that activates the system,” Hildren said. “Using facial recognition software, it recognizes who the person is and cross-references that person with a face bank, giving the name of that person, and the relationship the user has with them.”
Hilden said he was inspired to work on this project because of his grandfather, who has Alzheimer’s.
“It can be embarrassing for him, as he’s having a conversation with someone, that person will know who he is, but he doesn’t remember who he’s talking to,” he said. “I wanted to help him and other people who have some form of facial blindness.”
Hilden said being at the national science fair in Fredericton was a great experience, meeting fellow students from across the country.
“It went very well, it was a great week, full of fun activities and we did well at the awards banquet,” Hilden said. “When they announced the gold medals and called my name I could barely feel my legs.”
With the gold medal, Hilden receives a $4,000 entrance scholarship to The University of Western Ontario.
“My parents and teachers were super excited for me,” he said. “If anybody else is thinking about doing a science fair project and wants to take that step, I definitely recommend it. You learn so much during it.”
Rob Davies, one of Hilden’s teachers who accompanied the Kings-Hants group to the fair, said they represented the region well with interesting and thought-provoking projects.
"Each project had its own merits that all brought out the exceptional analytic and critical thinking skills that each participant possesses,” Davies said. “These events offer valuable experiences to our participants. Throughout the week’s activities, they are surrounded by some of the most creative and innovative problem solvers in Canada.”
Davies said the participants also get to take in the culture of the host city and experience the dorm lifestyle on a university campus.
Throughout the week the students took part in tours around New Brunswick, including the Saint John Skywalk and the Huntsman Marine Centre among others.