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Learn about the Nathan 14 – designed by a very impressive 16 year old

Nathan sits on front of his device, which is a 14 inch tablet and a large print keyboard.

Nathan Proudfoot recently presented his own low vision device called the Nathan 14 at a Sight and Sound Technology meeting during his work experience with the company. Nathan, who is vision impaired and a TY student in Salesians College in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, has been working on the device for three years.  

Nathan has always used assistive technology in the classroom but hadn’t found a device that offered all of the features he wanted and was robust enough for use in a school environment.  

“When I was doing my first year Christmas exams, the device I was using died, which wasn’t ideal. Other devices I’ve used can be difficult to get repaired when things break down and repairs can take some time, meaning that you’re without the device in school,” explained Nathan.  

In February 2022, Nathan began creating his own device – designing circuit boards and schematics, coding all of the software and designing the enclosure in CAD software.  

Nathan sits at a desk with his hand on the keyboard of the Nathan 14. You can see that the device has a 14 inch tablet with a distance camera attached.

“I had an interest in electronics but I didn’t know much about complex circuits or CAD so I learnt by doing! I like solving problems and I want to know how things work. I fell into electronics by accident when I wanted to repair a circuit board on an old arcade machine.” 

“So, over the last couple of years I’ve been designing circuits, models and the stand, coming up with new features and sourcing the manufacture of parts manufactured overseas. I’ve also coded all of the software and I’ve learnt so much about business in that time.” 

The Nathan 14 is made up of a 14-inch tablet, with a 4k distance camera (with up to x20 magnification) and a hot-swappable, integrated USB hub, which means that the user can decide where to place the camera and other items.

Features include a scientific calculator, with a function that is not available in any other calculator, offering different categories of formula that correspond to the State exams so that students won’t have to use hard copy formulas and log tables.

Nathan has sourced robust materials which are exceptionally strong but flexible. The device includes a capacitive touch light bar, which was very challenging to design, but allows vision impaired users and users with dexterity problems to wave their hand underneath the turn on the light and easily use the camera to magnify documents.  

“I was looking to make the best optimised device and the best materials I could find to last the life of the device and withstand wear and tear of school use. I spent months trying out different materials and did a lot of prototyping to get things to fit right. The Nathan 14 has more features than anything else on the market and I believe it gives vision impaired students the best learning experience.”  

Nathan took his device to the BT Young Scientist Competition earlier this year, where he had an opportunity to present it to hundreds of people over the course of the event.  

His plans now include ironing out any kinks in the device, putting it through vigorous testing and certification and hopefully being able to mass produce and get the Nathan 14 to market.  

It won’t surprise anyone to know that Nathan has ideas for other products and we have no doubt that we’ll be hearing more about him and the Nathan 14 in the months and years to come!