Student creates SIDS prevention technology after losing daughter

November 3, 2011

Having a child is considered to be one the greatest joys in the world. But what if that gift was tragically taken from you in the blink of an eye?

“My daughter Eleanore was born three months premature on May 2, 2010. We spent 64 days in the hospital and she did great despite all expectations. Unfortunately, after a month at home I woke up one morning to find she had stopped breathing in the middle of the night,” said Peter Seymour, a senior at ASU and founder of Seymour Enterprises. Download Full Image

Eleanore had passed away from a condition known as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), which is the leading cause of death for infants after one month of age. With the cause of SIDS unknown, many parents like Seymour have to rely on devices to monitor the respiratory functions of their baby. However, many of these products run beyond the financial reach of the average family and are known to report frequent false-positives.

So out of frustration and devastation, Seymour set work on creating a reliable, cost-effective sensor device using the latest advances in medical technology to monitor respiration and vital signs of other infants who may be at risk for SIDS.

Employing grants from the Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative and the ASU Innovation Challenge, Seymour’s device is currently in the product development phase. “The sensor is a wearable electronic device the size of a USB memory stick. We are thinking of embedding it in some sort of band or piece of clothing so it isn’t even a separate device,” Seymour said.

With the help of two engineering capstone teams from ASU’s Polytechnic and Tempe campuses, Seymour is working to have a marketable device come May. Once the device is finalized it will then be put through the FDA testing process. Seymour is hoping to have a product for sale on the market within two years time.

Even without a finished product, Seymour says he has already received a tremendous amount of interest not just from a consumer standpoint, but also from hospitals.

“The current monitoring devices available are very costly so many hospitals will just have nurses periodically come into your room and check your vital signs. My device being at an affordable price point could lower the labor demands on these nurses,” Seymour said.

The ultimate goal for the SIDS monitoring device is to work in conjunction with Smartphone technology, since this is something nearly everyone has access to.

“It would be useful to be able to pull up vital signs on your phone from the past weeks or months right on your phone. You could then send the information to your doctor, or use it to look for trends and health patterns,” Seymour said.

For more information on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, visit Learn more about Seymour

Mentoring high schooler presents opportunity for grad student

November 3, 2011

Researchers at Arizona State University are mentoring high school students and providing them with the tools to conduct research in cutting-edge laboratories.

One such opportunity has been made possible by the Southwest Center for Education and the Natural Environment (SCENE), a nonprofit organization that partners with ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability to offer a program called Research Experiences for High School Students. The program, which has been offered since 1998, gives high school students the opportunity to work closely with researchers and work on their own original research questions. photo of Wen-Ching Chuang Download Full Image

Wen-Ching Chuang, a graduate student at the School of Sustainability, is one of the many researchers mentoring a local high school student this year. Chuang’s current research focuses on the physical and social factors that affect a city’s capacity to cope with extreme heat events.

The School of Sustainability, which offers students a wide range of classes in order to help students address sustainability challenges, has provided Chuang with real-world experience that she can share with her student.

“One of the responsibilities of being an intellectual is sharing your knowledge with other people,” Chuang said. “The first thing that I want to share with my student is what sustainability is. I want to share my knowledge with him and teach him about all the different ways to approach sustainability.”

While researchers like Wen-Ching Chuang will be the mentors, the high school students will probably do some of the teaching.

“You always learn something new when you interact with new people,” Chuang said. “When you mentor a high school student, you can learn from them too. They view the world differently and have unique ways of approaching and solving problems.”

Kathryn Kyle, executive administrator for SCENE, recruited Chuang to participate in the program and praised her for her willingness to mentor a high school student. Chuang, who is working on receiving a PhD in Sustainability, moved to the United States from Taiwan to further her higher education. It was ASU President Michael Crow’s vision for sustainability sciences and the first ever School of Sustainability that brought Chuang to ASU.

“I applaud her for doing this because she is from Taiwan, so English is her second language. She has come very far in the school, and she will be a great mentor to a high school student,” Kyle said. “I am really happy that our students generally want to make the world a better place on both an individual and systemic basis.”

The program is beneficial for both the high school students and the mentors. Researchers who have participated in the program found a new interest in teaching, Kyle said.

“Past researchers who have been mentors have said that this program changed their attitudes toward teaching - it made them much more interested in teaching students,” she said. “After being a mentor, they not only have research and teaching experience on their resume, but mentoring experience as well, which is useful when applying for jobs.”

As the program continues to grow, more researchers are needed in order to match up every student with a mentor.

“We still really need mentors for this crop of students and we have a lot of great students participating,” Kyle said. “The kids in our program are the best of the best.”

SCENE’s research program has already proven to be a remarkable success: students in grades 10 through 12 grapple with original research questions while being mentored by top ASU scientists. The students learn what it takes to be a professional scientist, and they prepare to compete and win in state, national, and international science competitions.

Since 2000, SCENE students have won the Arizona Science and Engineering Fair’s Grand Prize every year except one, while also advancing to compete and win prizes at the International Science and Engineering Fair, the largest pre-college scientific research event in the world. In addition, SCENE students have won a prestigious Ricoh Sustainable Development Award every year since it was first offered.

The Southwest Center for Education and the Natural Environment (SCENE) was founded to promote learning about the environment through scientific discovery. SCENE links science expertise and resources at Arizona State University with pre-college students. The organization is a partnership between ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability and members of the private sector.

The Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The institute advances research, education, and business practices for an urbanizing world. Its School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the United States, offers transdisciplinary degree programs to create practical solutions for environmental, economic, and social challenges.

Written by Michael Marconi

Michelle Schwartz

Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability