Fighting SIDS with BYU student invention

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A BYU invention monitors infant’s breathing and heart rate to ease parents’ minds as their baby sleeps at night.

The goal of the invention was to reduce the annual cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a syndrome affecting around 2,500 babies in the United States every year. 

A team of BYU student-innovators worked together to create a wireless baby monitor that straps around an infant’s foot (like a sock) and monitors both the heart rate and blood-oxygen levels of the baby. Similar technology is used in hospitals to monitor patients in critical conditions.The invention notifies parents by sending a message to their smartphone if the infant stops breathing or has significant changes in heart rate. Kurt Workman, one of the innovators of the idea, said he was motivated to create the product idea after a cousin died of SIDS.

“Innovation can lots of times be really simple changes, using technology that already exists and making it better,” Workman said. “Our device is superior because it gets to the heart of the problem.”

The team is anxious to see the difference that the invention could have on various people’s lives. The team included BYU innovators Jacob Colvin, European studies major, chemical engineering majors Kurt Workman and Anna Hawes, mechanical engineering majors Jason Dearden and Wyatt Felt, and University of Utah nurse, Tanor Hodges. Jacob Colvin is the father of two children and brought a unique perspective to the project.

“This was a team effort,” Colvin said. “It really wasn’t just one person who did it. We worked together to achieve what we did.”

The team started pitching the idea at the Big Idea competition, and after it was well received, they started entering as many competitions as they could. The Owlet Baby Monitor, the name of the prototype, was first debuted at the third-annual BYU Student Innovator of the Year competition this year, where the team of BYU students took first place and a $6,000 cash prize. Justin Zsiros, faculty member over the competition, said that the product is likely to be a success because it uses technology that is already in hospitals and has been proven to work.

“The number of people it can affect is huge,” Zsiros said. “That is a huge advantage of their product. It has the potential to greatly benefit society.”

The competition included 39 different teams and was sponsored by BYU college of engineering and the BYU Venture Factor Club. The competition offered grants to students in order to create a prototype of an invention and be judged on that prototype.

“With competition, the goal is the clear communication of the idea,” Workman said. “I was surprised that we won because there were a lot of good ideas. It is more than the money and more than the prizes, it was about the validation. It makes us motivated to keep going and make it happen.”

The winners now have the option to compete in the Social Venture Competition or the 2013 Miller New Venture Challenge through the BYU Marriott School of Business. To find out more about the invention and follow its progress, visit owletcare.com.

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