The Alzheimer’s Advocate
Kenneth, 17, invented a sensor to keep his grandfather—and others with this incurable brain disease—safe.
Kenneth Shinozuka was just 6 years old when his family was startled awake by knocking in the middle of the night.
What they found when they answered the door: Kenneth’s grandfather in his pajamas, standing next to the police officer who had spotted the 73-year-old Alzheimer’s patient walking alone along a busy freeway. “If the officer hadn’t seen him, there could have been tragic consequences,” Kenneth says.
That moment of intense worry never left Kenneth, but it wasn’t until watching his grandfather step out of bed many years later—around Thanksgiving 2012—that his life-saving idea came to him.
The science-loving high school senior decided to clip a pressure sensor to his grandfather’s sock—if his grandfather got out of bed, it would trigger an alert on his parents’ smartphones. Now, after three years of perfecting the prototype and testing it at three residential-care homes, Kenneth sells SafeWander nationwide.
Sadly, Kenneth’s beloved grandfather passed away last fall, but Kenneth is grateful that the invention improved his final months of life. “He was my test patient, and we always knew where he was,” Kenneth says. “My family had huge peace of mind.”
He is comforted knowing that other families will benefit now too. “I get lots of heartwarming messages from caregivers,” he says. “That’s so surprising and great, because it was something I created just for him.”
Upon hearing a story about a family trapped in a fire, Alexis, 15, created a lightweight smoke mask. Firefighters can throw it into windows to save people who are suffocating.
This high school senior designed and built a baby stroller for parents who are in wheelchairs. The prototype was given to a Denver mom who can now push her baby with ease.
The Maryland 15-year-old invented a device to keep drivers alert. It monitors brain waves and eye blinks, then provides audio and visual signals to warn drivers if they’re too tired to be on the road.
*Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible brain disorder most common after age 60. It slowly destroys memory, thinking skills, and the ability to carry out simple tasks.
SOURCES: Alzheimer’s Association