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Student Codes Program to Help the Colorblind

When Alex Irick sees the world, things look a bit muted to him.

The eighth grader at the Jerry Knight STEM Academy is colorblind, so he can’t differentiate colors that look similar. Reddish hues look black, green appears as yellow, and purple tints are blue.

Irick said he has learned how to cope; but when he had an assignment that required him to answer questions from a color-coded map, he knew he had to do something.

“I would ask other kids in class or the teacher, and they would help whenever I wanted to know what a color was. However, I wanted to be able to know what the color was on my own,” said Irick. “That’s when I decided to create a program to help me.”

It took Irick only two weeks to program Color Helper. Once downloaded onto a computer, any user can hover the cursor over an object on the screen, and the name of the object’s color will pop up.

“It extracts the RGB (red, green, blue) value and uses algorithm to simplify the 16 billion different combinations into simple color names,” the 13-year-old explained.

Because Irick can’t see all the colors himself, he had to thoroughly research and study the numeral RGB values to understand how they work.

He said it was a challenge that definitely paid off in the end.

“One day, I just came to school, and I was like, ‘Eureka! I figured it all out!’ So I showed everyone, and they were like, ‘That’s amazing! How did you do that?’”

When Irick explains how he coded his helper tool, not too many people his age can fully comprehend it. Classmate Nathan Barling, who is also colorblind, said the coding aspect may go over his head, but he’s grateful to be one of the people who can benefit from it.

“I’m very thankful that someone not only made something like that, but made it for free that I can use whenever I need,” said Barling. “Once he was finished, he gave me one of the betas, and I started using it, and it was really helpful. I hovered over something that I though was white, and it was a pinkish color.”

Irick started programming in the sixth grade and plans to pursue a career in computer science.

He noted that he likes creating helpers for people and has already made applications to help students take better class notes and organize class schedules.