Last week we were excited to welcome a young inventor addressing the national problem of childhood obesity for a short residency at SparkFun to get help on her prototype – the Illumi-cize! Fifteen-year-old Reeny Boutros was invited to present the first iteration of the Illumi-cize at the annual White House Science Fair in March, where her project demo caught the eye of a fellow fitness proponent. We sat down with this ambitious and bright problem-solver to learn more about her plans!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you become interested in electronics?
My name is Reeny Botros, and I’m fifteen years old. I’m homeschooled, and I’m also a high school guest student at Wichita State University. I live in Wichita, KS, with my six siblings. I love math and science, and I participate in Girl Scouting, my Mayor’s Youth Council, and BEST robotics. My determination to light up my clothes naturally turned me a huge electronics geek! I spent the entire summer of 2013 building my first Illumi-cize prototype, and by the time I had finished I was a “soldering maniac,” and hooked on electronics for good!
Tell us about how the Illumi-cize works and why you came up with the idea for the project. How long did it take to make once you had the idea?
I’ve always been obsessed with wearing neon colors and sparkly outfits, and with bedazzling my clothes, so the next step was obvious: electricity! I made the first prototype in the summer of 2013, and have been working on it ever since. The progress has blasted off over this past week that I’ve spent at SparkFun HQ, and I could not be more excited about it!
Illumi-cize now consists of five fashion accessories - a hair bow, a necklace, a belt, a tutu, and a tee shirt that has the SparkFun logo - as well as a pulse sensor clipped to the ear. The pulse sensor detects a user’s heart rate and classifies it into one of five groups: low-intensity exercise, moderate-intensity exercise, high-intensity exercise, exceptional-intensity exercise, and finally, target heart rate. As the user’s exercise intensity increases, more accessories illuminate. I hypothesized that the power of fashion could be manipulated into an attractive incentive for kids to exercise!
How did you end up going to the White House Science Fair? What was your favorite part of going?
I applied for the opportunity to go to the White House Science Fair through NCWIT (National Center for Women and Information Technology). Last Spring I was a national runner-up in the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Competition, and I was deeply honored to be granted the opportunity to represent them at the fair. The White House Science Fair was a spectacular experience that I will never forget! My favorite part was right before the group picture was taken - President Obama shook my hand, asked me about my project, and put his arm around me for the picture!
Where do you hope the Illumi-cize project will go in the future?
I hope to use my invention to not only inspire girls that are as fashion conscious as me to be interested in electronics and STEM, but I also hope Illumi-cize can be used as a tool for encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle!
What advice would you give to other young people who want to make a project or get into electronics?
SPARKFUN SPARKFUN SPARKFUN! Even if you’re as clueless in electronics as I was three years ago, SparkFun provides all kinds of resources for learning, from video tutorials to a phone number you can call with any questions! They sell tons of cool products that make building any super cool idea you may have for a project totally possible!
We were proud to help Reeny polish her project, and we can’t wait to see the positive changes we’re sure she will make in the world!