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Local teen up for $20k prize
AWP0 Screen shot 2015 06 17 at 10.22.08 AM

A Dawson County home-schooler and his teammates are among the finalists for a $20,000 prize in an upcoming global, 2015 First Lego League competition.

Dusty Haney, 13, and his Braille Boys & Annie teammates Garrett Barker, Christian Carto, Henry Lyle, Daniel Torre and Annie Torre, will learn their placement in the 2015 First Lego League (FLL) Champion at the US Patent and Trademark office in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

"This year the concept is 'World Class', where you have to answer the question 'how can we improve the way people learn ...'," Haney said.

The self-named group created Insta-Braille, a device that teaches braille a tactile writing system.

Insta-Braille 2.0 which is basically a sound module with 28 buttons on top and its user feels the character, presses the button and hears it aloud. It also has a mode selector switch which allows its user to select one of three modes: letter, number or contraction.

After some design help from Jon Mehlferber, associate professor at the University ofNorth Georgia, who

provided CAD and 3D printing of the case and buttons for the Insta-Braille, the device was tested by individuals who are visually impaired.

"We did a little bit of research, and we were shocked to learn that 90 percent of blind children are not being taught to read and write braille, and because of this 50 percent will never graduate high school and 70 percent will be unemployed," Haney said.

The Insta-Braille was used in a beginner braille class where students worked with the instructor each week in recognizing and remembering letters, then putting letters together to spell words, according to Heather Ferro-Dicks, director STARS and volunteer services at the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta.

As for the prize money, its future has already been determined.

"We signed a contract at the beginning of the year saying that if we win a cash prize, we cannot use it for ourselves" Haney said. "It has to be to further the FLL robotics team or the invention."