Kids can be incredible innovators. Sometimes, all we have to do is ask them to come up with ideas. Take Greyson McCluskey, a 16-year-old from Indian Trail, North Carolina. He wants to be an architect. But earlier this year, he heard about the Wouldn’t It Be Cool If… competition (presented by Time Warner Cable and i.am FIRST, founded by will.i.am), which challenged kids "to dream up the coolest thing to make their lives, their communities and even the world more awesome" using science, technology, engineering, and math.
So McCluskey followed the instructions, and dreamed up the coolest thing he could think of: a car seat to prevent hyperthermia--a small but real problem for infants and toddlers, whose body temperatures can increase three to five times faster than adults. McCluskey says he doesn’t have any personal connections to infant hyperthermia, but he was inspired to work on "something prevalent in today’s society that’s really important." He won the competition.
The Baby Safe Rider consists of a pressure-sensitive matting insert and a control module. The insert goes under the fabric lining of a carseat, and when a baby is strapped in, the insert senses the weight of the child, indicating that the system should start keeping track of temperature variations. An ambient temperature-sensing system monitors the baby, and if the heat begins to rise, it triggers an indicator light to switch colors--green, yellow, and red indicate the severity of the situation. When the color switches from green (good) to yellow (getting worse), a text message is sent to the child’s parent, guardian, or whoever else is signed up for notifications. A GPS system also sends out the exact coordinates of the car, as well as whether or not it’s in motion.
After his selection as the competition winner, McCluskey began a four-month development process for the car seat with appropriately named innovation firm Fahrenheit 212. A few weeks ago, the 16-year-old visited the firm’s New York office, where he says that he "started getting a rough idea of how companies come up with ideas and make them come to life."
Over the coming months, McCluskey and Fahrenheit 212 will whittle down design ideas for the car seat until they come up with a final idea, which will be turned into a prototype. The team will also develop a business model and look at how the Baby Safe Rider might be brought to market.
McCluskey hopes that the Baby Safe Rider will be the first of multiple items in a temperature-regulating product line. And as for the dream of becoming an architect? It still might happen. But, says McCluskey, "When I went to New York, it gave me the idea that maybe I don’t want to be an architect. Maybe I want to be an innovator." Or maybe he could end up being both.