AUSTIN (KXAN) What started off as a middle school science project could soon make a major impact helping those who are visually impaired.

Two eighth graders at the Harmony School of Endeavor engineered a “smart cane” with sonar sensors that detect obstacles up to five feet away.

Ahyan Hassan and Hasan Rizvi call it their Pathfinder Project.

Not only did they win the middle school division on their own campus, but they also finished first at the Austin Energy Regional Science Fair. This allowed them to advance to the Texas Science & Engineering Fair at Texas A&M’s Student Center, where they won first place in the Junior- Engineering Technology: Statics and Dynamics category.

“We were only aiming to get to the State Fair,” Rizvi said. “I guess we got that trophy, and we were really excited for that.”

“We put blood, sweat and tears into this, very literally, and we really wanted to win,” Hassan said. “If we didn’t win, we just worked a long time for no reason.”

The boys have been best friends since the third grade.

“We have lots of similarities. We both like science and have curiosity when it comes to things,” Hassan explained. “When we see something, we automatically want to know how it works or why it works.”

This year, they had high hopes of coming up with an award-winning science project.

Their inspiration came from one of their grandfather’s old canes.

“My grandfather is almost blind and has bad legs,” Rizvi said. “It’s hard for him to get the place to place.”

Wanting to solve a real-world problem for folks that are visually impaired, they designed an affordable version of a ‘smart cane’.

“We thought we could add some sensors on a cane,” Rizvi said. “That way my grandpa could navigate easier.”

The Pathfinder is equipped with sonar sensors, sending information to the cane’s motor, which then vibrates on the side an object is on.

“It has a bunch of sensors at the bottom that work like a bass echolocation,” Hassan said. “They send out a wave and that wave will hit something and then that wave will come back to them.”

Picking up plenty of accolades and honors with their innovative idea, the two boys have earned a spot in the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge. The nation’s premier STEM research competition for middle school students.

“I hope this inspires other people to think outside the box, that’s my goal,” Rizvi said.

“It would be amazing if one day what I made became an actual product that I could see people using,” Hassan concluded.

Both boys are first-generation students, who hope to eventually become engineers.

As Rizvi and Hassan head into high school next fall, they plan on updating their Pathfinder Project in order to compete in even more science fairs in the future.