Aaron Hannon is an inventor and the SciFest national champion. He invented EnableArm, a shaving device for people with limited hand dexterity. After his win at the Intel ISEF 2018 he will have an asteroid named after him.
SciFest national champion, Aaron Hannon from St Muredach’s College, Ballina represented Ireland at Intel ISEF 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he received a first in his category, Embedded Systems. Aaron will receive a cash prize as part of his award and have an asteroid named after him.
How did your idea for EnableArm emerge?
The project is very much family inspired. My late grandfather Joe, an active man who took great pride in his appearance, suffered a stroke in late 2003, causing paralysis in his left side. His abilities to perform even the most personal and most basic tasks were eroded – such as his ability to shave. It was very difficult for me to watch his frustration and upset, and so I wanted to create a device which would help people in this situation.
How does it work?
The device automatically shaves the user’s face, which removes the need for users to have the hand control required to shave one’s face. The device can be controlled by voice commands from a mobile phone app, which connects to the device via Bluetooth, allowing the user to have complete control over their shaving routine without outside assistance. The device sits on the user’s head like a pair of headphones and has a visor which can move on-axis through the ear up and down around the user’s face.
“I relish the technical challenge of expanding my work on the shaving device into a whole range of new applications.”
It seems like a very complex invention?
It was certainly a huge challenge, especially considering I didn’t actually know how to code at the start of the project. I literally started the software aspect of the design by learning how to make LEDs blink. While there were certainly moments where I was tearing my hair out, it wasn’t all about the difficulty. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the design process.
Do you plan to expand on this and continue inventing?
That’s the aim. I love working on projects and I love trying to solve problems that affect people. Since I was small I’ve always loved designing machines and thinking up ways to do things differently, and that’s definitely something I want to continue.
The good thing about the EnableArm project is the wonderfully broad scope it affords. There are so many applications to which this underlying technology can be applied, and I relish the technical challenge of expanding my work on the shaving device into a whole range of new applications.
“I find the challenge of creating solutions which change people’s lives for the better very appealing.”
How did you ignite your entrepreneurial spirit?
I like to push myself and challenge myself to create the best solutions I can to the problems I tackle, a trait which has always been ingrained in me. I think that from a technical viewpoint, my spirit for pursuing excellence in design is something I have always just had. Thanks to the encouragement of parents, teachers, classmates and all of the people who have in some way contributed to my project I have really developed that aspect of my inner entrepreneur.
What do you want to do in terms of a career?
I think that there are so many possibilities and I find that very exciting. I am currently part of Williams F1’s Engineering Academy (I’m in year three, having been selected in Singapore in 2015), so while I have one eye on working in that cutting edge and exciting industry, I’m also keen to keep my options open and to keep thinking about how I can use my skills to influence the world and society in a positive way. I find the challenge of creating solutions which change people’s lives for the better very appealing and I like the creative space which that affords.
Who inspires you?
To be honest, my parents are the biggest source of inspiration for me in life in general. I’m aware that may sound very clichéd, but for me, it’s the truth. As I’ve developed and received a little more perspective on business and on life in general, my parents continue to inspire me. It drives the type of engineer and entrepreneur that I’d like to be.
Intel ISEF is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition, involving some 1,700 students from over 75 countries competing for a prize fund totalling $4 million. The SciFest programme is funded primarily by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Boston Scientific and Intel Ireland.