Google CEO cheers on 15-year-old's invention

Meet Google's blind engineer
Meet Google's blind engineer

15-year-old Advay Ramesh from India is having quite a week.

To start, Google (GOOGL) CEO Sundar Pichai highlighted the teen's invention for keeping fishermen safe at sea in an article published in the The Economic Times. Ramesh then met his idol face-to-face to discuss it.

"I was very happy to talk to him about it," said Ramesh, who shares a hometown (Chennai) with Pichai.

While discussing Google's initiative to develop more products for Indian users, Pichai said in the article Ramesh exemplifies why India could be a fertile playing ground for Google.

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Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Advay Ramesh met this week at Google's headquarters in Mountain View. Calif.

"Often the best innovations come from the most surprising places," wrote Pichai. "An incredibly inventive [15-year old] just used technology to provide a potential solution to a problem that had vexed people for decades. I love seeing innovation like Advay's coming out of India, especially from students so young."

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Rameswaram fishermen out at sea.

About a year ago, Ramesh began working on FishErmen Lifeline Terminal, also known as FELT. The small handheld device -- which is only a concept for now -- was designed to help fishermen in Rameswaram, a major Indian harbor near Sri Lanka.

Fishermen in the region face a unique problem -- it's not uncommon for them to inadvertently cross maritime borders in the narrow stretch of sea that separates the two countries.

"I'd read in the newspaper every day that Indian fishermen were being arrested by the Sri Lankan navy," he said. "It takes a long time to get them released, and I wanted to help this community."

With FELT, they can better track their sea routes, thanks to software built around a satellite-based navigation system, similar to GPS. The device warns them if they're about to infringe on international borders.

Ramesh has already developed the software but work on the device is still underway.

"The device shows where the maritime boundaries are," said Ramesh. "The green dots along the boundaries means they're in the safe zone to fish, but they turn orange when they approach international borders."

Meanwhile, a red alert signals they're about to cross the border.

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Rameswaram fishermen bringing in their daily catch.

There are other features, too: Fishermen can track their daily fishing path and store the location of a good fishing spot for future reference. The device will also send an alert if they're in the path of a storm.

Initially, Ramesh wanted to develop the concept as an app but ran into a challenge.

"I realized smartphones don't always withstand the climate at sea," he said. "I decided to create a new device."

Related: Underserved kids learn computer science in the back of a laundromat

Ramesh, whose parents are both engineers (his father is a software developer with Nokia), has already shared his concept with a few fishermen.

"They were happy to know about it and said they want it," Ramesh said.

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Rameswaram fishermen.

He's now focused on trying to improve the user interface and build a device prototype. But that didn't stop Ramesh from showing FELT to Pichai when the two met this week at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Ramesh was one of five Google Community Impact Award Winners, a recognition given to young students from different countries who initiated a project that fixes a problem in their community. Ramesh was the regional winner from Asia and got to present his idea directly to Pichai.

So what's next for Ramesh?

"10th grade is very important," he said. "I want to maybe come to the U.S. to study engineering after I graduate."

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