Mt. Hope students trying to save kids from being left in hot cars

For the third consecutive year, ‘Solve For Tomorrow’ judges think Mt. Hope students have an idea worth pursuing

By Christy Nadalin
Posted 11/27/19

Once again, Mt. Hope High School’s “Solve For Tomorrow” team has advanced to the state finals in the annual competition.

Sponsored by Samsung, Solve For Tomorrow is a nationwide …

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Mt. Hope students trying to save kids from being left in hot cars

For the third consecutive year, ‘Solve For Tomorrow’ judges think Mt. Hope students have an idea worth pursuing

Posted

Once again, Mt. Hope High School’s “Solve For Tomorrow” team has advanced to the state finals in the annual competition.

Sponsored by Samsung, Solve For Tomorrow is a nationwide contest that challenges middle and high school students to use STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills to engineer solutions to real-world problems. Last year, they designed a safer system for the intersections of bike paths and roadways.

Mt. Hope joins four other Rhode Island schools, including Lincoln and Middletown high schools, Davies Career-Tech, and Nathaniel Greene Middle School, as state finalists. In the next phase of the competition, these Rhode Island schools will pitch their ideas in a field of 300 schools from across the country.

All 300 teachers who submitted these finalist proposals will receive a Samsung tablet for their classrooms. Last year, the Mt. Hope team won the right to represent the state in the national competition. Advancement to that level nets the school $15,000 in technology and supplies, as well as a video kit to help showcase their project.

The 20 students of the Mt. Hope Solve for Tomorrow team started over the summer, brainstorming ideas for this year’s competition.

According to sophomore Odin Gaudreau, the team came up with about 30 solid ideas. “In September we narrowed them down to about 10 that we thought were feasible and could create a lasting impact.”

The result was a plan to address the issue of children being left in cars on hot days. “We want to make a signal of some kind that can notify the driver,” said sophomore Mikayla Ricks.

Despite increasing awareness, it’s a problem that has actually gotten worse. According to Kickemuit Middle School teacher and Solve For Tomorrow faculty advisor Mary Cabral, 2018 saw the most fatalities of children left in cars in history, with 54. To date there have been 50 in 2019. In their research, the students have found that overwhelmingly, the parents who are finding themselves in this predicament are not neglectful.

Young kids left in cars

Initially the students wanted to include animals in their project, as pets left in hot cars is also an ongoing concern, but tightened their focus to the highly-impacted demographic of children under age 3.

“Parents are busy, and when there’s a change in the schedule, their mind goes on autopilot and they can forget to do things,” said freshman Laura Deal. “It’s not that they were deliberately neglecting their kids.”

“It’s really sad,” said Ms. Cabral. “And it’s usually due to an unusual change in schedule, for people who are sleep deprived, significantly stressed, and working long hours.”

The students plan to design a solution that works in conjunction with child safety seats. According to sophomore Alice Grantham, they are thinking of using pressure plate technology to notify parents that they are not alone in the car. In the past, solutions introduced through auto manufacturers have not gone far enough. “Not every parent has a new car,” said Ms. Grantham. “But they all have car seats.”

This is not Mt. Hope’s first time advancing to state finals. Last year the team reached the same level, with their plan for three-dimensional crosswalks at bike path intersections. That plan just missed reaching the top-10 national finals. The level they are at now was reached based on their pitch alone.

“This next step is to describe activities that we will complete in order to have that prototype ready by the end of February,” said Ms. Cabral.

“We tackled a civil engineering problem last year, so thought we’d try electrical engineering this year.”

The Solve for Tomorrow team is unique in that it is made up of freshmen and sophomores, as the group was begun when the current class of sophomores were in grade 8 with Ms. Cabral as their teacher at KMS. “Each year we hope to add more students to the team.”

They already have some good ideas ready to roll for next year. According to Ms. Ricks, the brainstorming phase of this year’s project yielded enough ideas to go around for some time. “We did a survey to see what everyone thought of all the ideas we came up with. Maybe next year we turn to one of the other choices.”

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