Rice U. students develop "smart seat" for toddlers - New York News

Rice U. students develop "smart seat" for toddlers

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ATLANTA -

As the weather continues to warm up, things can turn dangerous for children. Earlier this month, a Clarkston toddler died after being trapped in a hot vehicle. Investigators believe the 2-year old may have crawled into the car after a door was left open. It was an hour before family members found her and she died later at the hospital. Since 2010, seven children in Georgia have died of heatstroke after being left unattended in cars.

Unfortunately, increased awareness alone isn't enough to prevent these tragedies. Now some students at Rice University in Houston are working on a monitoring device that connects to the car seat and could help save young lives.

It only takes minutes for a car to heat up to lethal temperatures. For three hours, a Houston, Texas one- year old known as Ray Ray slowly suffered, strapped in her car seat in the blistering heat. Late to work, Ray Ray's doting dad went on autopilot and forgot to drop her off at daycare. She never made it out alive. "He lives in his own personal hell nearly every minute of every day. And that's worse punishment than jail time, a fine, community service," explains Kristie Cavalier, Ray Ray's mother.

On the engineering floor at Rice University, in Houston a group of student believes their "smart" car seat shouldn't be dismissed.

"It's an accessory you can put on any car seat and it's able to alert the parent they've left their baby in the car," says Rice University student Margaret Dieudonne.

Parents can add as many phone numbers to the device as they want, and when the car is stopped for more than three minutes, they'll get a text message to check on their child. Lights also flash to get the attention of anyone passing by.

Until now, government studies have determined parent reminder devices aren't reliable because of signal problems and misuse. "A lot of the previous devices were difficult for users to use and we think because our device is portable and able to place on diff car seats, and is easy for user to install and use we think it will be a very easily accessed product.," adds student Meng Wei Ni.

A built-in cooling system is also designed with this seat, to keep the child's temperature down until help arrives. The students hope each year, they can continue to fine tune the device and hopefully one day make it standard in all child car seats.

Next week, Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal will help get the word out at the capitol about their new campaign, "Look Again." It works to remind parents, caregivers and the rest of the public about the dangers of leaving children alone in vehicles.

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