By Demi Guo and Tiffany Lee
A 15 year-old tenth grader from Nassau became one of the 41 finalists of the international Conrad Spirit of Innovation Challenge last Friday. Scott Soifer used his homemade 3-D printer to engineer the patent-pending Vehicular Heatstroke Prevention System (VHPS), meant to combat heatstroke deaths in cars.
Soifer, a student at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, placed in the Health and Nutrition category, one of five in the Challenge. Nancy Conrad, its founder, said its panel looks for submissions developed off existing technology to progress society and not just original inventions. Last year, one of the submissions, FireArmor, was designed by Thomas Jefferson High School and Columbia High School. “That’s the difference between invention and innovation,” Conrad said.
The VHPS was engineered device using homemade 3-D printer, Soifer explained. The invention detects the presence of life with a nondispersive infrared sensor for carbon dioxide and a micro-electro-mechanical system thermal sensor for temperature, he said. The device turns on the air conditioner and alerts the children’s caregiver and emergency personnel once it detects life and high cabin temperatures though carbon dioxide from human respiration and changes in body temperature.
Twenty-three minors died from staying in overheated cars in the United States last year, Kids and Cars, a nonprofit child safety organization, reported in their Child Vehicular Heat Stroke Fact Sheet. Fifty-four percent of the average 37 deaths year were unintentional, according to the Fact Sheet. In Florida last month, Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto co-sponsored a state bill allowing Good Samaritans to break into overheated cars to save children and pets without liability. In Georgia, grandmother Barbara Michelle Pemberton was charged with second-degree murder after leaving her 13 month-old grandson in the car for five hours.
In San Jose, Marti McCurdy invented an “iRemind” car seat alarm notification system last October that costs $99.99 on Amazon. The device, he said, detected an increase to 107 degrees in a car within 10 minutes. Soifer said he would sell VHPS for $150.
“When he chose to work on this heatstroke project, it was just amazing,” Felice Soifer, Scott’s mother, said. “Right now in the market there are products that are reminder systems, apps and devices to help parents not to forget about their babies in the car. For example, the device buzz. But what Scott does it that it actually cools down the vehicle itself to prevent heat stroke from happening.”
A lifelong mechanical tinkler, according to his parents, Soifer reused some parts and bought others off Ebay to make both his 3-D printer and VHPS.
“There say that you can 3-D print a 3-D printer,” Soifer said. Parts of his printer were made with another 3-D printer from school. The plastic boards used to hold up wires in the VHPS were in turn 3-D printed.
It cost about $400 to make the printer, Soifer said. He built it last January.
“When Scott built his own 3-D printing, I remember it was all these crazy pieces and in the middle of the night he talks to all these people from India and China,” Felice said. “He will always be on blogs, asking people questions, doing research. These are the things he loves.”
The idea of a device that can manufacture all types of three-dimensional goods with 10 percent of the materials usually used in the factories, Jeremy Rifkin, a futurologist, wrote in his book, The Third Industrial Revolution, signals the next step of mass production. The first printing system created by Hideo Kodama, from the Nagoya Municipal Industrial Research Institute in 1981 was composed of an ultraviolet exposure area and scanning fiber transmitter.
Over the past three years, printer technology has advanced so that it is now possible for Local Motors, a company, to print 75 percent of a car, Enabling the Future, a volunteer organization, to print prosthetic limbs and Defense Distributed, a firearm organization, to print working guns.
Under his research director at school, Lisa Runco, Soifer has sent letters to senators and the president about a plan to have the VHPS installed in every car manufactured in the United States. As a finalist, he is now a 2016 Summit Diplomat who, according to Conrad, will attend the annual Innovation Convention at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and have his system patented. Winners, she added, will also receive a free manuscript on advising them on marketing and further innovating their submissions.
“Anything electronic, Scott takes it apart very quickly,” Felice explained. “There’s nothing in our house that he has not touched.”
Today, Scott is tweaking a replacement walking stick, a box that vibrates when it senses an object or sudden drop ahead. The device is three times the size of a smartphone.
“Scott has this ability to see things spacely that I cannot see and cannot understand,” said Todd. “Sometimes I just wonder where does he get all these ideas from. He finds things that really has a purpose that can help people.”
“I tell my mom not to call the electrician or plumber anymore,” Scott finished.