After nearly a year of researching, designing, engineering, building, programming and testing, Davenport West High School’s 11-member Endotherm team is close to serving up a final product: a bracelet for children that the students hope will prevent vehicular heat-stroke deaths.
In front of about 30 people, including representatives of the University of Iowa and MidAmerican Energy, the team spent about 20 minutes Thursday explaining where they began last March, and what they’ve done since, including earning a $10,000 grant from the Lemelson-MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Program in October.
Tuyen Nguyen, 17, a senior who is the team’s project leader, said the idea is to provide a device worn as a bracelet that warns parents when their child is in or near a car unsupervised.
“When we started this challenge last year, there had been no child deaths by heat stroke because they were left alone in hot car,” Tuyen said. “During the past year, 30 kids have died. We feel this is so preventable.”
Currently, the team is in the testing phase of the project, she said. “We have our Bluetooth set up and it’s communicating with a phone right now. We also have a heart-rate sensor and a thermistor hooked up so we’re able to see temperature and heart rate on the app that is streaming information live.”
Brendon Telman, 18, a senior, is the primary designer of the app.
“You will download the app once you have the bracelet,” Brendon said as he watched the information on his cellphone. “Since January, we’ve been working in class to make the app work. We go to class Monday through Friday and that’s 90 minutes in class. So it’s taken us a while.”
With the bracelet, once a child is detected in a car alone, or is too close to a car, the bracelet will sound an alert, Tuyen said. “What we want now is to incorporate a SIM card so that if a parent’s phone is out of the 32-foot range of the Bluetooth, it will send a series of text messages to the parent’s phone.”
She said they hope to have the final product in hand by April.
Leslie Flynn, professor of science education at the University of Iowa, attended the presentation with Dawn Bowlus, director of the Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship at the University of Iowa.
Both were impressed with the presentation.
Flynn said the students are exhibiting all of the skills businesses want.
“They’re problem solvers, they’re creative, they’re agile, they’re flexible in their thinking, they’re forward-thinking, they’re not afraid to tackle some of life’s most important issues and they’re able to keep developing,” Flynn said.
Bowlus said that the team identified a problem that hits home for a lot of people, especially new mothers and fathers. In doing so, the team created commercialization opportunities.
“We can all think of people who would spend $50 on this type of technology,” Bowlus said. “It’s peace of mind.”
Bowlus also said the team’s explanation of why they chose the project tugged at the audience's heartstrings.
“All of these students would excel in an entrepreneurial class,” she added.
Jason Franzenburg, a teacher at West and the team’s head coach, said the process over the past year has been special.
“We started looking at 15 different problems and did some surveying and found what would have the most impact on society," he said. "Then there was the story of a young child passing away in a car and when the kids saw that story this idea rose to the top.”
Looking at his team in the library, Franzenburg added, “I have one of the best jobs ever. I come to school, I work with bright kids and I help invent things.”
The team will travel to Boston in June to present their product during Lemelson-MIT’s annual EurekaFest.