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Class of 2016: Torie Gilland and Casey Cooley, IUPUC

Apr. 27, 2016

While riding in a vehicle with her niece, whose harness was loose on her car seat, IUPUC senior Torie Gilland came up with an idea to improve child safety seats.

torie gilland and casey cooley

From left, Casey Cooley, mechanical engineering lecturer Bud Kinkaid and Torie Gilland | PHOTO BY BELINDA ALLEN, IUPUC

"I knew my niece’s harness was too loose and also knew her caretaker who put her in her car seat had all good intentions of strapping her safely in her child car seat," she said. "That is when I came up with the idea to eliminate the ‘guess work’ for caretakers and design a harness that retracts back on the child to relieve the necessary slack."

Gilland, along with her mechanical engineering classmate Casey Cooley, developed the retractable harness for child car seats for their senior capstone project. The harness easily pulls out of the slots and securely fits around the child. Any remaining loose tension from the harness is retracted inside the car seat.

The mechanical engineering senior capstone design course at IUPUC requires teams of two to three students to complete a design project, from conception to a developed working prototype. To complete a successful project, students need to use a broad range of engineering skills and knowledge developed during their studies. In addition to faculty mentoring, many teams develop relationships with engineers from the industry, which helps bring a “real-world” perspective to their projects.

"The project chosen by Torie and Casey exemplified the goals of the course," said Bud Kincaid, lecturer in mechanical engineering. “They identified a significant need -- child safety -- and one the team felt passionate about. The originality of their concept was verified by researching relevant literature and patents.

"The project stretched their creative and design skills. Gilland and Cooley demonstrated terrific drive in getting a very challenging project designed and developed and a working prototype produced."

In researching literature, the team discovered that the most common types of errors in car-seat usage are loose attachments to vehicle seats and loose harness straps. Although child safety seats reduce deaths and injuries, they can be difficult for many people to install and are commonly misused. A 2011 study of 4,000 vehicles by NHTSA revealed that over 46 percent of children riding in vehicles were in improperly installed child safety seats, and the child’s protection during a crash was compromised.

The team had already started work on another project but scrapped it to pursue the retractable harness.

"When I thought of this retractable harness idea, I knew I had to pursue it not only for my personal gain and interest in it but also with high hopes to help save the lives of precious children," Gilland said.

Gilland is currently working as an intern mechanical engineer at GECOM Corp. in Greensburg, Ind. After graduating from IUPUC next month, she will transition from to an employee for GECOM as a production engineer.

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