Demelza Werly

James Cook University (JCU)
Pilgari Systems: being the eyes for visually impaired drivers

Demelza Werly


I am currently working at the James Cook University (JCU) Founders- in- Residence Portfolio, JCU Ideas Lab as the CEO of Pilgari Systems. Pilgari is an Artificial intelligence (AI) system that ‘becomes the eyes of visually impaired drivers’ I have a passion for STEM and a background in technology and want to inspire girls to thrive and flourish in STEM careers despite any challenges that they may have. I have talent and sweat equity invested in Pilgari which is currently bootstrapped, showcasing that nothing should hold you back from achieving your dreams. Even though I am visually impaired from birth, blind in left eye and low vision in the right this just keeps me striving to meet my dream of finally being able to drive safely KITT (my talking car) Knight Rider replica. My company Pilgari aspires to assist visually impaired drivers to be able to safely drive a vehicle


I have made significant impact and valuable contribution of Queensland women working in STEM careers where I have continuously inspired women and girls despite their challenges to start and thrive in STEM careers for the benefit of the whole community.  For me, I see that I have made impact in three core areas for the community across three core systems: (1) Being a role model in my local community; (2) STEM education opportunities for girls (3) Leading the way for people with disability to contribute in the startup ecosystem in Queensland.
1. Role model in my local community: I have had a chance to connect STEM at my local Cairns Car Club and being the owner of KITT gives me a chance to demonstrate to girls that anybody can excel in the technology field if they are willing to put the energy and commitment into breaking down barriers and stereotypes. Many of my friends also live life with a disability so I support and encourage them to never give up hope and to embrace any great opportunities that arise. I strongly believe that your disability does not define you…. but your disability should drive you to achieve your dream.

2. STEM education: I am consistently advocating for STEM opportunities for girls and promoting inclusive opportunities for all. This education comes in many forms through experiential learning and testing various technologies and AI to solve a problem. To also sharing lessons learned – whether that be at an exhibit, at a car show, or doing a demo of Pilgari being a life- long learner I am truly committed towards impacting STEM educational opportunities for all.

3. In the startup ecosystem: Having the opportunity to develop and work in Ai and deep-tech sector shows that anyone can start their own career in STEM. I now dedicate my time and resources to develop Pilgari being the CEO demonstrates that girls make great leaders and In meeting the needs of the visually impaired population I want Pilgari to be to be affordable, easy to use, fix and install. Be a plug and play system for major make and models and years of vehicles. It will use current technologies and be able to adapt for future technologies. This work will inspire many girls who are visually impaired like me that STEM can help take their dreams to reality.

Role Model

I am a great role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM careers since I clearly demonstrate that STEM can help you achieve your career aspirations despite any challenges you have! I would like to explain this through using the acronym R.O.L.E.
For me this means: re-engineering, orcam, leadership and empowerment
R= re-engineering
O= Orcam 
L= Leadership
E= Empowered 
R= re-engineering is a skillset and mindset that helps us to explore different ways to explore challenges in technology. This is a great skill for girls to develop early in their careers. I have developed this skill set in the modifications and re-engineering that I have completed with KITT. At car shows and events I have shared this through the specific modifications I have made which include:
O = ORCAM I also embrace STEM into my daily life since I also wear a smart device called the Orcam MyEye 2 it’s a device that I wear on the side of my glasses that reads books, screens of all types, handwriting (60%), can even recognize people, items, and the environment surrounds. It is voice activated and I can use speech prompts to direct specific commands by through a tap to the side of my glasses. In addition my home computer, laptop and phone and table I have self-taught myself how to work the voice to text and text to voice, keys talk what they are as I touch them and translates into typing.
L= LEADERSHIP: I am a great role model in leadership as I have demonstrated that girls can create their own STEM startups despite challenges and that they have the opportunity to become future empowered leaders paving the way for other girls and women in the industry.
E: EMPOWERED– applying STEM empowers us to keep striving for better ideas and innovations for me it started by re-engineering KITT but I kept pursuing my passion and this led to my STEM career of studying ADF cybersecurity and also having the confidence in applying to attend the connectivity cafes, the IMPACT10X simulator and then over the following year creating my own startup up company. I have remained consistent and focused on this dream despite being told that ‘I am wasting my time’ and ‘this could never be achieved’. In fact these hurtful comments only drove me and inspired me to take charge and achieve even more. This message of remaining empowered and committed. 


Non – Scientific Audience: being a very active member of the Cairns Car Club I get to travel and promote STEM across Queensland. I have had major contribution in STEM promotion at local car shows with showcasing the re- engineering modifications I have made with KITT (as mentioned in my CV). At shows I share my story and girls and their Mothers - get more interested in trying out technologies it is really impactful when I see their excitement.

Scientific Audience: I get the chance to share my story at the weekly connectivity café at the Ideas Lab, James Cook University where I continually inspire other students, staff and local innovators to experiment with technology and AI. I have also assisted with the IoT Engineering Exhibit where the University is trying to promote more girls to join this degree. I showcased KITT to demonstrate the mechanical and electrical sensory system that I help develop.
At the Ideas Lab I have been leading weekly driving simulator sessions especially for students where they consistently get the chance to experiment and trial virtual reality and biofeedback loops with “my drive school”. An interesting finding is that it is the girls who outperform the boys in the safe driving modules and the slalom course.
Since 2011 I have owned a Knight Rider TV Show Replica (KITT) 1982 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird which is right hand drive. Also, from my perspective of being visually impaired over the years I have re-engineered several driving functions: like the lower console display and configuration so it would be easier to see (e.g. having to many colours in a small space isn’t easy). I also designed and deployed a dual battery system for my which I display in car shows, events and this technology gets a lot of attention. My upgraded design of the lower console factors in specifications from the viewpoint of the visually impaired. The Touch Screen  Bluetooth hands-free calling/mp3 cd, DVD entertainment system functionality. Fingerprint – security ignition start. Handsfree locking/unlocking walk-up and KITT (Pontiac) will unlock when you are in the sensory detection area. 


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