Canterbury student Logan Williams has won a Ministry of Health-sponsored Eureka! scholarship for his innovative medical-grade polarised contact lenses that can help prevent epileptic seizures.
The Ministry is one of 13 organisations that offer scholarships to undergraduate and secondary school students through the Sir Paul Callaghan Eureka! Awards.
Approximately two in 100 New Zealanders have epilepsy. Occipital lobe epilepsy is the most common form, with sufferers vulnerable to the flashing of white light, which can induce an epileptic seizure.
Logan Williams became interested in finding a solution after seeing a friend have a life-threatening epileptic seizure.
“She told me her condition leaves her in fear daily. Just walking past a row of trees during a certain time of day or watching television when flashing lights occur can induce a seizure. It was clear to me that epilepsy was a wide-reaching problem faced by a large number of New Zealanders,” he says.
“My friend said the use of dark-lensed sunglasses dampens the flashing effect, giving her the critical seconds she needs to close her eyes or move away from the stimulus. However, with sunglasses, light can still enter through peripheral vision, so there is still considerable risk.”
After further research, Logan designed ‘Polar Optics’ – concave medical-grade polarised contact lenses which break down glare, dampening the effect of light penetration and potentially preventing an epileptic seizure.
He says the lenses lend themselves well to widespread use.
“Polar Optics could offer varying degrees of polarisation, in direct relation to light sensitivity, allowing general practitioners to prescribe them. They could also be produced using 3-D printing, making the lenses extremely cost-effective to mass produce for the global market.”
Fifty students entered the 2017 Eureka! Awards – 10 undergraduates and 40 secondary school students. Seven students entered for the Ministry of Health Gold Scholarship, which Logan has been awarded. The scholarship is for the most innovative and creative scientific, technological and/or engineering-based solution contributing to healthier lives.
As scholarship winner Logan receives $5000, to go towards tertiary education.