Bloomberg Businessweek (Asia)
A better, cheaper incubator
In the fifth grade, I was surfing YouTube and saw a video of Muhammad Ali during the torch relay at the 1996 Olympics. His hands were shaking, so I looked online and realized he had Parkinson’s. It made me want to build something to help people with the disease. It took a few years—I’m currently 16. I designed a “smart ring” that uses Bluetooth and an iOS app to collect data on things like what time of day the tremors are more severe. The data go into a report doctors can use to better treat their patients. I work at a desk in the garage. I spend a few hours there every night after wrapping up my homework, soldering the rings for my Kickstarter campaign. I’m shipping them to backers soon, 25 of them. Most are Parkinson’s patients.
Generally, disruptive technology doesn’t come from big corporations. I’ve got a number of inventions that came from thinking outside of the box, and you do that if you’re in the garage. You try to crack things, and you can be in there all night. We’re taking complicated medical devices and making them simple, cheap, and durable. We always work on customer-centric design, and that involves everything that you know about the customer and everything the customer may want, while trying to foretell the future. If you get that right, it has longevity.
I’ve created an app that locates missing persons globally without GPS. I travel back and forth from Houston, because I have a home in Egypt. I stay at my brother’s house, and a few years ago I decided to work on the pingpong table in the garage. It offers a lot of space to do a lot of drawings. For the user’s path—the first page, or login, on the app—I really need space to lay it out. The color is really calming to work with.
Growing up, when stuff broke, my mother used to give it to me and I’d make something else out of it. I’ve always been interested in upgrading stuff. My latest project is the Re-Lit, a light that fits onto a bulb or tube lamp. It has a mini solar panel that converts light created by the bulb into electricity that charges an internal battery. We have a lot of power outages, so the device is a backup. When I started on my prototype, I had to travel 150 miles to find someone who could 3D-print it.
Who doesn’t want a superpower? I started building things a few years ago that focus on sensory-based inventions: a ring device that allows the wearer to experience magnetic fields as a vibration; an ultrasonic walking stick for the blind with similar haptic feedback; some preliminary work on ultrasound hearing for echolocation. And I’ve been working to build a battery that’s easily constructed, bulky, but very durable. Batteries are an intensely difficult thing to manufacture well—the worst battery you could buy in a store is a marvel of engineering.