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Rice Grads Develop Device to Protect Infant Passengers

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Every summer we hear the horrible stories about someone who has left an infant in a car. Given the temperature in the vehicle and the fact that babies heat up much faster than adults and can experience heat stroke at 104°F and death at 107°F, this is a situation that is unthinkable. . .and preventable.

As for the latter, high praise goes to five people who graduated from Rice University last month, as they spent their last year working to develop a car seat accessory that can protect infants left in hot cars.


Engineering a cooling system for infant seats in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen at Rice University

It is called “Infant SOS.” It is an add-on for existing car seats. It not only provides auditory and visual alerts that might be discerned, say, by someone walking by the car (or can remind an adult before climbing out of the car), but it also sends text alerts.

What’s more, it features a passive cooling system that helps keep the infant from overheating.

Audrey Clayton, Rachel Wang, Jason Fang, Ralph LaFrance, and Ge You worked in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen on the device that they anticipate can be produced for about $150.

The unit is able to determine when a car is parked and a child is in the seat. Lights and the chime will be activated after 30 seconds. After five minutes, a text will be sent to a primary number. After 15 minutes, texts will be sent to secondary numbers. Up to 10 numbers can be stored.

Should the interior temperature of the car be above 90°, the passive cooling pad is activated; the lights and chime are immediate, as is a text to the primary number. After five minutes, the secondary numbers are texted.

The team found that Infant SOS can be setup in less than three minutes and that it is capable of keeping an infant’s core temperature below 100°F for an hour. (The setup uses a PureTemp phase-changing material to absorb heat as well as a specially woven, temperature-sensitive textile and thin aluminum covering that transfers excessive heat away from the infant’s skin.)

While there is an abundance of research going on in the industry on things like self-steering cars, presumably the driver is capable of steering.

The work that these graduates have done point to a very real need for those who are strapped into car seats and are incapable of protecting themselves.