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This straw is smart enough to detect date rape drugs

Three teenage girls came up with the concept during a business plan challenge.

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Susana Cappello, Carolina Baigorri and Victoria Roca are the co-founders of Smart Straws.

C. M. Guerrero/Miami Herald

Date rape is a massive problem -- especially on college campuses -- but a simple straw may help curb the crime.

"Smart Straws" are drinking straws designed to detect common date rape drugs by turning blue when placed in both nonalcoholic and alcoholic drinks.

It all started when three teenagers, Susana Cappello, Carolina Baigorri, both 17, and Victoria Roca, 18, of Gulliver Preparatory, decided to enter their preventative product in the Miami Herald's 2017 Business Plan Challenge and earned first place early last month. But they didn't just want to win a contest.

"Our goal is to actually be one of the first products that can successfully enter the market and be a possible solution to lower the statistics of rape," Cappello said in an interview. "Especially since any victim can be any age of any gender and can be drugged anywhere."

The idea comes at an important time: a 2016 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 21 percent of undergraduate women across nine schools experienced sexual assault since entering college, and most incidents involve the consumption of alcohol and drugs.

College-aged students are exactly the demographic the three girls were hoping to influence, according to the Miami Herald, and their research showed that GHB and Ketamine are the most common club drugs. With this in mind, the girls designed their first product to test for these two drugs, which can be slipped into beverages without the knowledge of the drinker.

Still, the young inventors acknowledge their product isn't a magic bullet in party and club environments flush with alcohol.

"We know it's not a solution because it can't end rape," Baigorri told Inside Edition. "But we were hoping to lower the amount of rape and dangerous situations you might be in through drugs."

College-aged students seem to believe in the product too. The team of three released a survey at Northwestern University, finding that 85 percent of participants said they would use the straw, according to the Miami Herald.

The overall concept of the straw hasn't changed, Cappello says, but the team has continued to brainstorm ways to make it better -- like opting to produce various straw sizes to accommodate different types of drinks.

"A glass of Coke may need a longer straw compared to a mojito," Baigorri said in an interview.

The team is in the process of speaking with a large manufacturer to bring Smart Straws to the market, Baigorri said, and plan to make it "very affordable and cheap enough to dispose." They are also consulting intellectual property lawyers to protect their product, Cappello added.

The three plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign ahead of the official release of the Smart Straws, and Roca said the team is also currently "strategizing ways" to make the launch as successful as possible.  

Smart Straws may still be in its early stages, but these three teenagers are determined to make their mark on the business world.

"We hope to inspire people who have a business idea to pursue it if one feels passionate it about it," Roca said.

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