Fourteen-year-old Audrey Larson has a list of inventions to her credit, including glow-in-the-dark pajamas and a device that pets your dog. This year however she’s focused her ingenuity on a much more serious issue: school shootings.
Larson, a resident of Connecticut, was looking for an idea to submit to the Connecticut Invention Convention. Discussions with her friends about school shootings led her to hit on an idea: a bulletproof foldable wall that extends within a classroom, allowing students to huddle behind it in the event of an active shooter situation on campus. Her invention is called Safe K.I.D.S. or Kevlar-cellulose-nanocrystal-AR500-steel Instant Defense System.
“It’s a foldable two-panel barrier that comes out of the wall for kids to hide behind in the event of a lockdown and, ultimately, in the event of a school shooting,” Larson told Good Morning America. “It’s really scary to just think about, and that’s kind of what sparked that idea. Some of my friends were having anxiety about being at school and I don’t think that’s fair to any kid,” she added.
To implement the Safe K.I.D.S system a teacher or student need only pull the panel from the wall in their classroom, allowing teachers and students to file behind it into a corner as in normal lock down procedure. A teacher or student will then simply lock the system into place.
Safe K.I.D.S. even comes with an electronic component which calls 911 notifying them that a shooting is taking place. The electronic component also sets of an alarm notifying all the other classrooms in a school that it is not a drill and that teachers and students need to implement the system in their classrooms in order to protect themselves.
The walls are made from bulletproof Kevlar as well as steel. There is also a layer of Cellulose Nanocrystals which serves to slow any bullet down before it even reaches the layer of steel.
Larson won so many awards at the Connecticut Invention Convention that she took her system to the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo (NICEE) in Michigan. There she competed with other inventors in her grade. She placed second in her age level there and is currently working on securing a patent.
“As a mom I was saddened that these are the things that are on the mind of a freshman girl in high school. I think as an engineer, I was fascinated with the robustness and detailed design work,” Mary Lombardo, a judge at the Connecticut Invention Convention and the vice president of engineering and innovation and research at United Technologies Corporation, told GMA.
“From an engineering perspective I felt that it was very well thought-out. It was doable and really gave a very simplistic solution to a very difficult and complex social problem,” she added.
Another benefit to the system, Larson says, is that it is a “non-political solution” to a highly-politicized issue. “[An invention] is not the only way,” Larson said. But it “makes it maybe easier to implement in comparison to some of the other solutions as the gun control debate has been going on since Columbine.”
Larson believes her generation will be leading an innovation surge in solutions to the gun rights/control debate. “I think that my generation is going to be the change. Millennials and my generation tend to be forward thinkers and tend to be go-getters on some level — minus our cell phones. …I feel like the kids of my generation are already talking about this and getting fed up with it,” she said.
Photo by Audrey Larson