A comfortable T-shirt designed by students has the potential to save children who accidentally fall into swimming pools.
NBC News reports that the device, called the Watawescue, is intended for children between 2 and 4 years old. Fitted with a mechanism that automatically inflates the clothing when soaking wet, it could act as a safety net for children playing near pools.
The T-shirt has been designed as part of the 2012-2013 InvenTeams Program by team ‘GLAZZ’. The program is a Lemelson-MIT designed to get high-school students excited about the possibility of a STEM (science, technology, mathematics, engineering) career.
The team came up with the design after reviewing 46 deaths attributable to drowning in Arizona during the first six months of this year — 15 of which were children.
“If the child falls in the water in an accident, the mechanism will go off and the inflatable bladder will inflate below the arms,” Briana Soto, a senior at the Girls Leadership Academy of Arizona and part of GLAZZ said.
The inflation mechanism is sewn into a mesh fabric that wraps under the arms, and will inflate only if a child becomes soaked — so sprinklers or spilling juice won’t be enough to accidentally inflate your child every other moment.
A carbon-dioxide cartridge and alarm mechanism is stored into a tiny pouch at the back of the T-shirt; sealed with a bobbin that dissolves once immersed in water. As it dissolves, compressed gas produces a loud sound as the tube inflates, warning parents of danger.
The all-girl team will showcase their projects at MIT in June 2013. In the meantime, GLAZZ will receive $10,000 and industry advice to further refine their design.
It is not intended to replace a life jacket, but as parents who have suffered the accidental death of a child by drowning have said — it only takes five minutes.
According to statistics, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental injury-related death among children ages 1 to 14, and among children ages 1 to 4 years, most drownings occurs in residential or home swimming pools. In addition, roughly 5,000 children 14 and under go to the hospital because of accidental drowning-related incidents each year; 15 percent of these cases results in death, and 20 percent suffer from permanent neurological disabilities.