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    High-School Student Creates Mobile Application And 3D-Printed Lens To Diagnose Grandfather’s Neurological Disorder 👏

    Alexandra Roumeliotis is not your average high schooler...


    Alexandra Roumeliotis, 17, was only seven years old when her grandfather went blind due to a brain aneurysm pressing upon his optic nerve. The rare disorder took doctors years to diagnose, but by then, it was too late to save his vision. Roumeliotis was determined to put her technical skills to the test in creating OpticEye, an efficient and accurate way to diagnose her grandfather’s disorder on a mobile phone.

    OpticEye is a mobile application and 3D-printed lens attachment that can diagnose papilledema, a swelling of the optic disc indicative of a severe underlying neurological disorder. The user takes a picture of their retina on a mobile phone using the 3D-printed lens attachment. Then, the retinal image is compared across a database of images consisting of healthy and unhealthy optic discs, in order to determine a diagnosis. While still being tested for efficiency, Roumeliotis plans to release OpticEye to the public later this year.

    What inspired your idea?

    Alexandra: After my grandfather’s prolonged misdiagnosis of a brain aneurysm, I was determined to create an efficient and accurate way to diagnose his disorder. I wanted to create an impact to help other people like my grandfather with accessible, at-home health care.

    How did you start creating OpticEye?

    Alexandra: I started by doing lots of research to become really well-informed about papilledema. I spent a lot of time reading articles about my grandfather’s disorder and the many potential triggers of optic disc swelling, and specifically how papilledema differs visually and neurologically from other similar disorders. I wanted to have a really strong understanding of the disorder in order to understand how I would be able to diagnose it.

    I began to reach out to a lot of experts across fields of ophthalmology and computer vision, or those doing similar work, in order to get their advice and feedback on my idea, as well as further my knowledge and understanding of the disorder and current technologies. They were able to answer any questions I had, as well as direct me towards publications or research that would further my understanding. I was able to spend time in an office with an ophthalmologist, where I was able to get an understanding of how papilledema is diagnosed, which helped me determine how I could translate this manual diagnosis into a mobile application.

    With the help of classmates, teachers, and mentors in ophthalmology and computer vision, I was able create an algorithm and design a 3D-printed lens attachment that could be used to diagnose my grandfather’s disorder.

    Alexandra Roumeliotis / Via

    What did you learn? What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?

    Alexandra: As a young entrepreneur, I believe that it’s important to admit what you don’t know. As someone who is fairly inexperienced, you should take advantage of the opportunities to learn from others with more life experience and established specialties. While my initial research on my grandfather's disorder was mostly self-directed, I relied on the help of other experienced individuals in order to further my project; I reached out to ophthalmologists, computer vision specialists, and researchers in retinal imaging, many of whom were willing to answer my questions and advise me on my project. I received mentorship from an ophthalmologist, who greatly assisted with my research, and allowed me to work alongside him in demonstrating the traditional diagnosis of papilledema. With the help of a school teacher and classmate, I worked to design a 3D printed mobile lens attachment.

    You are not expected to have mastered everything; admit to what you don’t know and allow yourself to grow as an entrepreneur by learning from others. If you demonstrate passion and commitment, people are often willing to help you along the way; just don’t be afraid to ask. I think it’s very important to have humility as a young entrepreneur and approach your project as a collaborative opportunity to gain exposure and knowledge from others. Your biggest strength is your passion, not your experience.

    What are your future plans with OpticEye?

    Next year, I am going to college where I hope that I can work to further improve the accuracy of the OpticEye technology through further access to mentors and facilities. In the future, I would also hope to use OpticEye technologies in order to diagnose a variety of different eye disorders. I believe that OpticEye is a part of the movement for widely-accessible healthcare, and accurate diagnoses within the home; as the world advances technologically, healthcare should too.

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