What are Kids Doing to Make School Buses Safer?
Every year, hundreds of children are injured or killed in school bus-related accidents. Who better to help identify school bus safety problems and develop solutions than representatives of the 23 million kids who ride the bus each day? Eight of those students have done just that, coming up with inventions that could save lives.
Opening the Door to School Bus Safety
After a local teenager was dragged to her death when her coat string became caught in a school bus door handle, Dayton 10th graders Lisa Bales, Julie Craig, Tony Liao and Alexis Liebst were inspired to devise an ingenious solution to a related problem. They propose replacing rubber door liners with bristles so straps, strings and other items slide through without becoming caught in the door.
Turning a good idea into real change is no easy task, but the Dayton students are well on their way.
Last summer, their proposal won the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant, presented by the sponsors of the Bayer/NSF Award. The team used the grant to refine their idea, present it to Ohio School Bus Safety Committee and submit it to the Transportation Resource Center in East Liberty, OH, which reported very favorable test results just this month.
"This is a practical, inexpensive way to save lives," explains Liao. "Now we have the test results to back it up." Liao says initial responses from manufacturers have been positive. "I hope they will begin using bristles on new buses right away," says Craig. "There is no reason to wait."
Pak-Rax Would Stow Away Safety Hazards
What happens to backpacks, instrument cases and other loose items during a school bus accident? They become flying projectiles, injuring riders and blocking exit paths, says Heather Walker, age 12, who experienced a school bus accident a couple years ago.
Walker and sixth-grade classmates Allison Giardino, Nick Marrinson and Amanda Ohbayashi of Sanford (Orlando), Florida, invented an underseat storage system called Pak-Rax to keep potential hazards safely stowed away.
Their idea is picking up steam. After winning second place in the Bayer/NSF Award, the students formed a corporation and submitted a patent application. Presentations to Florida officials including Governor Jeb Bush and the Secretary of Transportation Tom Barry resulted in rave reviews, and testing of prototypes on four buses in Orange County won the approval of 100% of bus drivers and 98% of students. The team is working to raise the $60,000 needed to build a mold and produce Pak-Rax for further testing and sale.
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