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Middle school student Joaquin Haces-Garcia invented a car seat alarm system to remind parents that their child is in the backseat. He did so after reading a devastating story of a father whose baby died of heat stroke after accidentally being left in a hot car. Joaquin felt that something had to be done to prevent this.
Read on to learn more about Broadcom MASTERS 2016 finalist Joaquin's invention and how science fair inspires him to share STEM with others.
Children overheat several times faster than adults ... I figured there had to be a way to prevent such traumatic deaths.
WHY HE CREATED A CAR SEAT ALARM SYSTEM: The local news of a father who forgot his four-month-old baby in the family’s car with tragic consequences was the genesis of my science fair project. I discovered that this was not an isolated case. There had been cases all around the U.S. and the world where children died or were injured when accidently forgotten inside vehicles.
The reason behind these devastating effects is heat stroke because a closed car amplifies the ambient temperature, leading to a much sharper increase in temperature when it is parked in the sun. In fact, even in vehicles with windows cracked a temperature of 125 degrees could be reached in minutes, and children overheat several times faster than adults. Of the more than 360 deaths caused by heat stroke in cars in the U.S. in the last 10 years, over half were caused when a child was forgotten inside a car.
I want to help parents avoid the risk of forgetting by accident, which could change the family’s lives forever.
There should be a way to make drivers remember when they have a baby in the car to avoid future tragedies. I designed an alarm that would warn people if they forgot to take their baby out of the car seat.
HOW THE ALARM SYSTEM WORKS: I needed a way for it to detect when a baby was in a car seat. I tried working with a weight sensor, but it produced too many false positives. For example, the alarm might go off if a baby moved in the seat, or if a driver rested objects on the car seat.
Science changed the way I saw the world.
After more research, I decided to use a magnetic sensor, which could be activated when the seat belt was closed. I decided that the system should hook up with a car alarm system, instead of a phone or other device that might be turned off or could malfunction. If a driver tried to lock the car while the baby was still strapped in, the car alarm system would start sounding, and the car would not lock.
Now that my prototype works, my next engineering project will be hooking it up to the alarm system of an actual car. I want to help parents avoid the risk of forgetting by accident, which could change the family’s lives forever.
HOW HE FIRST BECAME INTERESTED IN STEM: I have participated in several science fair competitions, like Google Science Fair and Santa Gertrudis School Science Fair, individually and as a team with my older brothers. STEM is the main source of knowledge for every field in the world. You can find science in every activity you do, it does not have to be a complicated subject at school. This is what first interested me in it. It changed the way I saw the world.
Instead of watching that one last episode of a T.V. show, go and think of how you can create something or make sense of something you're passionate about.
HIS CURRENT STEM GOALS: My current goals are to branch out in STEM in high school, since in middle school you are more limited. I would like to compete in the University Interscholastic Team, participate in Intel ISEF, compete in the Google Science Fair again, and present better projects for science fair.
I am going to push myself to make better inventions, create something safer for cars other than car seats, show how smart I am in UIL for academic events and, of course, have loads of fun doing what I love and helping others to reach their full potential.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SCIENCE FAIRS: Broadcom MASTERS has been very important in encouraging me to pursue STEM. A good example was when I was presenting my project at State of Texas Science Fair 2017. After the judges came by, I wasn’t feeling too great, I felt like I wasn’t going to win. Then I saw four families crowding around my board — I was shocked. They wanted me to present my project to them because they knew about it from the news. These parents asked me to talk to their kids and inspire them.
I felt honored and it made me feel better that people heard my story and were inspired to create their own path to success. As long as you feel that you are doing what you like, never let one loss affect you. Some school districts asked me to talk to the students and I always share the struggles that I had to overcome in order to succeed.
You can find science in every activity you do.
HIS MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT AT THE 2016 BROADCOM MASTERS: I have a lot of memorable moments, but my favorite was the day I presented my project to the public. I felt very excited because I got to present the invention that lead me to what I am now to the world, finally placing myself on the map. I remember so many people came by and wanted to know my story. Knowing that people are listening to you makes you feel really good. That day I had an interview with a local T.V. station and on the nightly news they were talking about Broadcom MASTERS and put my project as an example of the greatest inventions.
HIS ADVICE TO OTHERS INTERESTED IN STEM: Work hard, don’t hesitate to ask if you need help, and always do what you enjoy. Work hard in everything you do for every moment of your life, make that one thing into the best thing, and improve your planning of the project. Instead of watching that one last episode of a T.V. show, go and think of how you can create something or make sense of something you're passionate about.
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John Madland is a high school freshman from Salem, Oregon and the winner of the 2018 Broadcom MASTERS $7,500 Lemelson Award for Invention.