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Dinner in Darkness Gives Participants a Clearer View

Dinner in Darkness

A family trip to India several years ago inspired a passion in Vero Beach sixteen year-old Omar Shareef. During the childhood trip, Shareef visited an orphanage which was home to a number of blind and visually-impaired students. Seeing the many challenges the children faced simply in navigating the details of everyday life sparked an idea for something that might be able to provide assistance.


Shareef, a student at St. Edward’s School in Vero Beach, designed and created a ‘helping hand’ glove as a science fair project. When worn by a blind or visually-impaired user and pointed in a direction, the glove identifies objects, people’s faces and written text utilizing built-in cameras. While there are other items on the market which accomplish many of the same tasks, Shareef’s imagination, ingenuity, and computer coding skills helped to cut the cost of creating the glove by thousands of dollars, making the end product something affordable for everyone, something he says is critical because of the financial challenges already faced by members of the blind and visually-impaired community.


As part of the creation of the glove powered by artificial intelligence, Shareef also created Second Sight, a nonprofit organization which will help to make the product available to those most in need. The project garnered local and international awards for Shareef, but he is as quick to attribute his success to those who helped and encouraged him as he is to deflect any praise.


The glove was introduced to a group of nearly 200 individuals who gathered at a ‘Dinner in Darkness’ event hosted at the Pelican Yacht Club by Shareef, using his winnings from national and international science competitions and his earnings from repairing iPhones, building iPhone applications, and making websites for the community. Portions of the dinner were held in darkness to help participants become aware of one of the many challenges facing individuals who cannot see. During the course of the evening, Shareef invited a number of speakers to the podium to share knowledge, experience, and feedback on the device he’d created, including representatives from the Lighthouse for the Blind, the Indian River Education Foundation, the blind community, and St. Edward’s School. Shareef also answered questions and provided hands-on demonstrations to the invited guests.


Despite being surrounded by high-powered and seasoned professionals in the fields of medicine, education, business, and science and technology, towards the end of the evening during the time set aside for hands-on demonstration and viewing, Shareef made time to speak one-on-one with a shy, eighth grade girl who had been riveted by his presentation, listening raptly to her describing a project she is considering for her school science fair and sharing encouragement and support to continue even when the work becomes difficult.


For a full gallery of picture from this event, CLICK HERE


 Educators from St. Edward’s School who have helped encourage Omar Shareef were invited to share in the celebratory evening. Back Row (L-R) Ken Hudson, Terry Mitchell (History Teacher), Krissie Fojtik (Middle School Dean), Barbara Mohler (Head of Lower School), Kerryane Monahan (Head of Science), Omar Shareef, Joanie Wachter (Retired Technology Teacher), Laxmikant Pathade (Chemistry Teacher), Jeanette Gallery-Kain (School Nurse) Front Row (L-R) Kelly Hudson (Science Teacher), Lori Van Roekel (Front Desk), Maureen MacMullen, Jack MacMullen (Head of Upper School), Michele Sterberg (Director of College Counseling)


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