Josh Kaplan’s idea for his Bluetooth® Breakthrough Award entry, BrailleBoard, stemmed from a desire to give social power to visually impaired teens. The flip-open keyboard case is Bluetooth enabled, featuring Braille characters and large-print contrasting letters on the keys that help the visually impaired not only text and type on their smartphones in an easy manner but allow them full use of their phone’s features.

Josh and his team of innovators met while participating in the SEED SPOT NEXT Program, a program that exists to empower the next generation to leverage their passions in the world. The program provides schools with curriculum, teacher training, online resources, and support to turn students like Josh into entrepreneurs who change the world.

“Josh was chosen to participate in this class due to his outstanding character and ability to think outside the box,” said Gretchen Naugle, Director of SEED SPOT NEXT. “Throughout the development of his idea he was able to help his team think in new ways about the problem.”

Josh and his team talked to a wide range of blind and visually impaired individuals and learned that business executives were hugely affected by not being able to text on their smartphones. Working with an engineer, Josh and his team were able to create a 3-D prototype of BrailleBoard.

The culmination of the SEED SPOT NEXT program was a Demo Day, where teams pitched their idea before their classmates. The BrailleBoard team members gave a three-minute pitch and “won the crowd over,” Naugle said. Josh and his teammates won their school Demo Day, earning $1,000 to invest in their venture, a spot to pitch at SEED SPOT’s Demo Day, and time with a patent attorney.

“Josh gave a flawless three-minute pitch in front of 900 investors, business leaders, and community leaders,” Naugle said. “His ability to speak in front of large audiences and remain cool under pressure stood out.”

Upon completion of the pilot program, Josh shined as an intern for the SEED SPOT NEXT program, setting up social media for the NEXT program and helping collaborate on curriculum.

“His work ethic is what stood out during the internship,” Naugle said. “Josh went above expectations on any task he was given.”

In addition to SEED SPOT NEXT, Josh has gained valuable experience through attending leadership conferences and social impact summits, serving on DoSomething.org’s Youth Health Advisory Council, and leading youth ambassador programs with Special Olympics International and Youth Service America.

“Josh is a genuine, authentic leader who is making a difference in the world around him,” Naugle said.

 

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