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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass students design portable seatbelt

Massachusetts Daily Collegian (U. Massachusetts)

(U-WIRE) AMHERST, Mass. The group of engineering students at the University of Massachusetts who designed and constructed a portable seatbelt as part of a required engineering course last semester are planning to eventually market the device as a finished product.

Clint Walton and Josh Doolittle, both juniors and mechanical engineering students, plan to continue refining the device as part of an independent study in the spring semester, and both see a final product as a very real goal.

“Every day it looks like a [more] realistic goal that we will have a product on the market,” said Sundar Krishnamurty, a professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department.

Krishnamurty teaches the Assistive Technologies course, where students are expected to work on projects that are aimed toward helping people and society. Doolittle and Walton, along with fellow student Ronald Leung, created the device as one of seven groups in the class last semester competing to see which could come up with the best design for a portable seatbelt.

The project began as part of a collaboration between Krishnamurty and the Sara’s Wish Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded by Anne Schewe and Charles Schewe, a business professor at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass. The foundation, created after the death of Charles and Anne’s daughter, Sara, in a bus accident in India, is aimed at making overseas travel safer for students by raising awareness, according to the foundation’s Web site.

“There will be more work on this and other students will be involved,” Krishnamurty said. “We will possibly be working with Charles Schewe’s management students. We will be recruiting people as we need as we go along.”

Improvements upon the design of the device and analyzing the marketing needs are both areas that must be first addressed before any final product can be finished, according to Krishnamurty.

“We are definitely going to improve upon this design. It is going to be the main theme of our future work,” Doolittle said. “We’ve already come up on ideas for making it more light weight for starters,” said Walton.

Both plan on applying a higher level of engineering to the design to improve the safety and performance of the device. Making any product cost-effective and reflective of customer needs is high on their priority list.

“We do not want it to be a luxury, we want it to be a commodity,” Walton said. Any final product would have to be under $25, according to both Doolittle and Walton. The target group of the product would be students traveling abroad, according to Krishnamurty, meaning that the device would have to be affordable and convenient to students.

Walton said that it would take at least another year of work before they would be anywhere close to a final product, but could not say when for sure it would be finished.

“It is a pretty open time frame,” Doolittle said. “We are still going through school, and there is more involved. It is bigger than just us.”

“We are not looking at time,” Krishnamurty said. “We are looking for perfection.”

Assistive Technologies is offered every semester for mechanical and industrial engineering students and aims at preparing students for real life work. Using the success of the device to attract prospective engineering schools is just one possible positive effect of the project, according to Krishnamurty.

“I am sure that this will become a signature project to illustrate what students can do and how far they can go,” he said.