International Alumni Update – Freddie Howells – Engineering for the Elderly with Raspberry Pi

“Now I have friends from all over the world to visit!” exclaims Freddie Howells, the 2019 Broadcom MASTERS International Delegate from the United Kingdom. 

The Broadcom MASTERS International is a global program that brings together middle school STEM Rockstars from over 25 countries to be Official Observers at the Regeneron International Science & Engineering Fair.  These delegates from every continent (except Antarctica!) spend a week together to interact, share, connect and to have fun!

“Broadcom MASTERS International opened my eyes to many avenues of science and engineering that I had never considered,” said Howells.  “One of the most valuable experiences was learning to work together as a very diverse team and recognizing everyone’s individual abilities.”

“Freddie and all of the Broadcom MASTERS International delegates are trailblazers in STEM.  They are sent to us as the “best of the best” from their country’s national science & engineering fair,” said Paula Golden, President of Broadcom Foundation.  “Continuing their research despite the constraints  of COVID-19 was enhanced by their relationships from the Broadcom MASTERS International where they can draw encouragement to persevere on their projects because they forged life-long friendships with fellow science-minded students from around the world.”

In 2019, Howells won “Junior Engineer” in the Big Bang Fair 2018, the UK’s National Science Fair that qualified him for the 2019 Broadcom MASTERS.  His engineering design project called Door Pi Plus is a facial recognition door entry system and complete home monitoring system for the elderly.

The Door Pi Plus uses the Raspberry Pi, a small low-cost computer, powered by a Broadcom chip, that teaches computer science.  Howells won the Young Innovator award at Coolest Projects 2019, an international technology showcase for young coders, designers and digital makers.  Freddie was also a 2019 finalist in the Tech4Good awards.

 

“I always loved creating things, even when I was really small.  I would see something in recycling and think ‘that could be a…’,” said Howells.  “I like to look at other people’s problems as challenges that we can overcome with a little innovation.  My passion is using engineering to find solutions to real world problems.”

Freddie’s recent innovation is called Fall Alert, a wearable fall sensor that is triggered when someone falls, rather than requiring them to press an alarm button.  There is also a remote video monitoring element that is particularly important in the current COVID-19 pandemic.  Many elderly and vulnerable people have limited contact with others and could be undetected for hours or even days.

“I developed the Fall Alert for my Great Aunt Pat and other vulnerable people like her,” Freddie said.  “She was falling a lot because of her dementia and unable to press her CareLink bracelet.  Fall Alert solves this problem and makes her feel safer in her home.”

In 2020, Freddie won the Junior Engineer award at the Big Bang Fair yet again, but this year it was virtual.  Howells found it challenging to create a 5-minute video submission that gave the right balance of technical information and demonstration that accurately depicted the invention on screen. 

“My experience at the Broadcom MASTERS International helped to prepare me for new and tricky situations like competing virtually,” Howells said.  “And it’s motivated me to further develop my skills to be able to compete with the high caliber of research and innovation found at science fairs.”

We hope to see you at the next ISEF, Freddie!

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