It's no stretch: Kid's rubber band gizmo could save lives

Inventor Andrew Pelham, 11, wins design award for his snappy E-Z Baby Saver, which aims to prevent kids from being left in hot cars.

Rubber Band Contest

Sadly, one doesn't have to look far to find a story of an adult who accidentally left a child in a hot car. Young inventor Andrew Pelham has heard such tragic tales, and he decided to do something about it.

Pelham, 11, invented a simple device meant to remind tired or overwhelmed parents that a baby's onboard. The "E-Z Baby Saver" just nabbed a $500 runner-up award in the science and engineering division of the University of Akron's 2013 Rubber Band Contest, which tasked inventors in grades 5 through 8 with creating something made mostly from rubber bands.

Pelham's invention follows the old model of putting a rubber band reminder around the wrist.

One end of the device attaches to the back of the driver's seat by looping a rubber band around a head rest or handle. When parents click a child in, they flip the E-Z Baby Saver to the front seat, get behind the wheel, stretch the device across the driver's seat door, and hook it on the handle.

Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Then, when they try to get out of the car, they're met with a bright neon reminder that, well, there's something very important they need to be reminded of.

"I can't get out without remembering, 'Oh my kid is in the car. I better check," Pelham, who lives in Brentwood, Tenn., tells Arkansas' THV11 as he demonstrates the device.

Rubber Band Contest participants can use rubber bands in a variety of sizes or colors to make their contraption. They can use other materials, too (in Pelham's case, colored duct tape), but rubber bands need to be the stars.

According to the nonprofit kids' safety organization KidsandCars.org, an average of 38 children die from heat-related deaths each year after being trapped inside cars.

"In well over 50 percent of these cases, the person responsible for the child's death unknowingly left them in the vehicle," the organization says on its stat sheet. "It happens to the most loving, protective parents. It has happened to a teacher, pediatrician, dentist, postal clerk, social worker, police officer, nurse, clergyman, electrician, accountant, soldier, assistant principal, and even a rocket scientist. It can happen to anyone."

Pelham, the oldest of four children, two still in car seats, just doesn't want it to happen to anyone else.

"Hey, who doesn't want to make something that saves people from dying?" he says.

Who, indeed? We're expecting great things from this kid.

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

 

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