A group of Vanderbilt students poured months into finding a way to leverage technology to protect police officers nationwide. Their quest started with a pitch from a police officer who worked to pull bodies from the rubble of the World Trade Centers on September 11th.
"He noticed that despite their bodies being mangled, their vests were n one piece, it was durable," said Vanderbilt student Vivek Shah. "So he essentially thought, why can't the vest do more?"
It's a question that officer posed to Shah and several of his bioengineering classmates, who came up with a product they've named HERMES or Health Evaluation and Real-time Monitoring-based Emergency Signaling.
Basically, a small pouch of sensors, that can be attached to any existing ballistic vest, will detect the wearer's heartbeat and breathing patterns. But it can also detect if a person is bleeding or hit by a hard impact, like a bullet or car. It can even tell if an officer is somehow knocked over and lying on the ground.
"It'll send a signal to our laptops and that can send a text to our phones telling what's wrong with the officer based on what the sensors are receiving," said student Zach St. Clair.
The hope is that those alerts will one day go to dispatch centers instead of cell phones as the technology is integrated into police departments.
"Police officers risk their lives everyday for us," Shah said. "Being able to offer a system that protects them in the same way is a great way for engineers to tie it all together."
Now, the team's design will go to a firm that'll streamline the technology. The students hope the system will be on the market in about two years. Their ultimate goal is to is sell the technology for less than $100 per vest.
The students who helped engineer the vest are Vivek Shah, Zachary St. Clair, Kathryn Snyder, Matthew Rogers, Nicole Steiner, Alexander Boyer and Paul Hart.