Innovation is the end result of a lot of hard work, but it always begins with an idea. For young inventor Bishop Curry, a middle-school student from Texas, the idea came in response to a tragic event. His invention was inspired by the death of a little girl who was left unattended in a car parked in the blazing summer sun.
Bishop knew the family. The girl was six-months old, which was around the same age as his younger sister at the time. It struck him that no child should die in this way and no family should suffer that loss. Believing this kind of accident was preventable, he sketched a device that could cool a baby and alert parents and authorities of a problem.
His initial rough sketch included a list of all the technologies needed to build a working model, including power supply, cooling fan, various sensors, GPS, logic controls, wireless connectivity, and messaging capabilities (Figure 1). That was four years ago. Today Bishop’s idea has a name—Oasis—and he built a working prototype. He has raised over $50,000 through the crowdfunding site GoFundMe to help fund prototyping and the patent application process. Additional money is needed for more prototyping, testing, and further design refinement.
Figure 1: Bishop Curry’s first sketch of Oasis. (Source: Bishop Curry)
In a recent interview with Mouser, Bishop explained how he came up with the idea for Oasis, and how it works (Figure 2). Regarding the name, Bishop said, “I call it Oasis, because an oasis is cool. When I look at an oasis it makes me think of relief.” Using his prototype and a piece of foam to represent a baby, Bishop demonstrated Oasis’ essential functions.
Figure 2: Bishop Curry demonstrating how Oasis works. (Source: Mouser)
The device, which is mounted near a child’s car seat, uses LIDAR sensors to detect the presence of a baby. Bishop notes that the sensors can detect very slight movements so that Oasis can determine the difference between a baby and an inert object such as a purse thrown into the car seat. If Oasis detects a baby, it checks the GPS to see if the car is moving. Bishop says, “If the GPS is moving, that means the car is moving, which means somebody is in the car driving, so there is no problem.” However, if the device senses the presence of a baby and the car is not moving, it begins a two-minute delay. If motion has not resumed after two minutes, Oasis uses a thermoelectric cooling device and fan to start blowing cool air on the baby, and it sends a text alert to the owner’s phone stating the time. Removing the baby from the car seat stops and resets Oasis. If no one removes the baby after the initial text message, Oasis sends a text alert to the police. That message includes current coordinates of the Oasis device.
Bishop is still refining the design. He used 3D printing to create prototype enclosures (Figure 3). There are also several engineering challenges to solve, including optimizing the battery requirement for size and power. If the cooling element is triggered, Oasis needs to operate long enough to keep a baby cool until emergency responders arrive. Also, the design will need to be optimized for manufacturing, and that includes component costs. Bishop hopes to be able to sell Oasis for $50.
Figure 3: Image of the Oasis prototype. (Source: Mouser)
It has taken a while to get to this point. Bishop patented his idea, which was an expensive process, and he is hoping to find a manufacturer. Funds for the initial prototype and patent process came largely from his GoFundMe campaign. He continues to raise funds through GoFundMe to help finance the 140 hours of additional design and testing needed to refine the design for manufacturing. The publicity Bishop and Oasis received helped with the fundraising campaign. He’s looking forward to moving Oasis into production so the product can do what he expects it will do—save children. He also wants to move forward with other innovations he has been collecting in a notebook of ideas.
Bishop’s Oasis exemplifies the new path of innovation made possible through the availability of off-the-shelf components, the use of low-cost 3D printing to create custom parts, and crowdsourced funding. Turning ideas into innovative products has never been an easy process, but it is now something that is possible for anyone who has technical skills, vision, and determination. Just ask Bishop.
David Talbott is an IT and Technology Analyst with Mighty Guides who focuses on emerging technologies including deep learning, cloud and edge computing, and ubiquitous connectivity, and how these technologies converge to create powerful self-learning systems.
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