Emirati students develop alert system to save lives of ‘forgotten’ children left in cars

When Khulood Alarafati, 19, read about a child in the United States who died after being left in a car for hours, she was determined to solve the problem.

Along with four university classmates, the Emirati industrial engineering student created a mechanism to detect children left unattended in vehicles – and prevent further tragedy.

Using weight sensors and alarms, the team of five, including Marwa Alkarbi, 21, Sara Al Mansoori, 20, Noora Alseiari, 21 and Lamiaa Al Jabri, 20, developed a three-feature system which alerts parents to children in cars.

“Children should not be dying unnecessarily. We set out to create a safety feature that ensures things like this do not happen in the future,” Ms Alarafati told The National on the sidelines of the first Middle East Youth Expo 2020 in Abu Dhabi.

With today’s fast-paced lifestyles people get so caught up on the phone that a sleeping child is sometimes left in the back seat without knowledge or intention

Khulood Alarafati

“People think it is reckless to forget a child in a car and we agree, it is.

“But with today’s fast-paced lifestyles, people get so caught up on the phone or in conversation with other passengers that a sleeping child is sometimes left in the back seat without knowledge or intention.”

It is an issue that is particularly pertinent in the Emirates.

In June of last year, doctors in the UAE warned of the dangers of leaving children alone in cars after a young schoolboy died of heat exposure after being forgotten on a school bus.

This new alert system uses sound and light alarms that are triggered when seat sensors detect additional weight in a vehicle when the engine is switched off.

The team also programmed their own specialised coding to disable a car door from shutting when the sensor is still active.

Students from the Higher Colleges of Technology - Women's Campus in Abu Dhabi showcase alert system which detects children left in cars. Antonie Robertson / The National
Students from the Higher Colleges of Technology – Women’s Campus in Abu Dhabi showcase alert system which detects children left in cars. Antonie Robertson / The National

The team, who all study at the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi, created a final prototype of the system in late 2019.

Now, they hope to scale up their project with additional funding from the entrepreneurial incubator located at the HCT Dubai campus, called InnCuVation Space.

In 2019, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, approved HCT as an economic zone and launched the innovation centre with an initial Dh100 million investment over five years.

Split into five specific zones – media and design, fabrication and maker space, programming and robotics, business and entrepreneurship and general purpose computing – it is used to support budding entrepreneurs who are close to graduating.

About 25 student projects have received funding from InnCuVation Space so far.

“In its first year, the centre received about 1,000 submissions for different projects and the team had to choose the most promising,” Rana Khan, assistant manager for events and publications at HCT, said.

“The child-detection system developed by our team of female students from the Abu Dhabi campus will be put forward for review.

“We are hopeful it will be accepted into the programme so the team can fine tune the technology, create a larger prototype and scale up the project to make it a real working innovation.”

Hoping to bring an end to preventable child deaths, Ms Alarafati said the team was also looking to develop a mobile application linked to the system.

“It would read the temperature inside a car and alert parents when the interior gets too hot or cold.

“We are looking at introducing another alert system, which notifies a parent of a child in a vehicle via text too.”

Thousands of students from across the UAE attended the opening day of the MEYE 2020 on Monday.

Noted as the first “positive youth engagement event” in the region, Chris Fountain, co-founder of the expo, said more than 10,000 students from 400 schools, colleges and universities across the UAE are expected to attend the three-day event.

Updated: February 3, 2020 08:04 PM



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