20-year-old intern's Connected Wheelchair could save lives (video)

Intel intern uses the chipmaker's technology to modify a wheelchair. The resulting device has caught the eye of Stephen Hawking.

Sumi Das Producer / Reporter
Sumi Das has been covering technology since the original dot-com boom. She was hired by cable network TechTV in 1998 to produce and host a half-hour program devoted to new and future technologies. Prior to CNET, Sumi served as a Washington DC-based correspondent, covering breaking news for CNN. She reported live from New Orleans and contributed to CNN's coverage of Hurricane Katrina, which earned the network a Peabody Award. She also files in-depth tech stories for BBC News which are seen by a primarily international audience.
Sumi Das

Some interns fetch coffee, others try to change the world. Tim Balz, a college sophomore whom chipmaker Intel wisely hired for a summer internship, falls into the latter batch. The 20-year-old served as team lead for a multidisciplinary group of interns whose expertise ranged from computer science and software to hardware and user interface. Their summer project? Transform a standard wheelchair with a heavy dose of Intel technology. The result was the Connected Wheelchair. The CNET News crew caught up with Balz at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco for a closer look.

Watch this: Smart wheelchair tracks user's vitals, calls 911 in emergencies

Balz's passion for helping wheelchair users started in 2011, when he founded Freedom Chairs, a nonprofit that fixes up electric wheelchairs for people in need. In Balz, Intel found a natural leader for its Connected Wheelchair project. The undergrad decided to major in mechanical engineering after what he describes as a "life-altering" experience in the FIRST Robotics Competition.