Three teenage Palestinian girls from Nablus are on the verge of scientific stardom, inspired by a desire to help blind people in their West Bank hometown. They have invented a revolutionary beeping walking cane for the blind.
Their successful breakthrough will be rewarded with a trip to a science fair in California next month.
Asil Abu Lil, 14, along with two friends Asil Shaar and Nour Al-Arda, entered their invention into an Intel Corp.-sponsored international youth science fair scheduled next month in San Jose.
Despite fierce competition, their invention was accepted.
The girls will become the first Palestinians ever to attend the prestigious event.
All three go to a U.N.-funded school in Nablus and "are the Albert Einsteins of tomorrow," U.N. spokesman Chris Guness said.
The school is so overcrowded that it runs two different shifts a day.
Asil wanted to help her blind uncle and aunt navigate their way through the narrow and steeply sloping streets of Nablus.
The friends scoured the electronics shops of the West Bank to find the right components to fit their new design.
Unlike previous beeping walking canes, their cane boasts a sensor on the tip, as well as one that faces forward. The first sensor helps detect sudden drops in the ground, caused by holes in the sidewalk or steps.
The girls beat out dozens of other projects designed by competing Palestinian kids but had one major obstacle to overcome before realizing their dream of going to California next month; a shortage of money.
Benefactors Lead the Way to San Jose
There was only enough for two of the girls to make the trip. After drawing lots, Asil was destined to be left behind. But U.N. staff decided to pool some of their own money to purchase an additional ticket. When she heard the news Monday, Asil burst into tears and hugged her classmates.
"Even when I'll be old," she said, "I will remember this time forever."