Young Innovator

Team member’s 10-year-old son designs car seat device to save children left in vehicles 

November 30, 2016
Family Affair – The Curry family, from left, Tenia, Isaiah, Anistyn, Bishop Jr. and Bishop Sr.

Each year an average of 37 children die from being left in hot cars. These tragedies are heartbreaking to read about, but when it happened in team member Bishop Curry’s neighborhood this summer, it became personal.
 
In June, a father of three in Melissa, Texas, said a change in routine caused him to forget his 6-month-old daughter in the car in front of his house. With temperatures pushing triple digits, it was a fatal mistake with devastating consequences.
 
“In Texas, cars are like ovens,” says Curry, operational excellence manager/process engineer at Toyota Financial Services in Plano. “I don’t think any parent intentionally does this. It’s a product of a busy life, but a life was lost.”
 
Curry and his family drive past the house every day on their way to school.
 
“The house looks abandoned,” he says. “There are weeds everywhere. Where there was life, there’s now death.”
 
Dedicated Developer – Bishop discusses his invention with Eric Dahle, Evenflo’ s director of Engineering and Program Management, at the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies Conference in Michigan.
 
Moved to Action

Curry’s 10-year-old son, also named Bishop, was saddened by the news of the girl’s death and of other young kids who are accidentally left in car seats. In response, he designed a mockup of a car-seat device that alerts parents and authorities if a child is left in a vehicle.
“I heard about babies dying in car seats and they could have grown up to be somebody important,” says Bishop Jr. “It makes me pretty upset.”
 
Then the inquisitive fifth-grader challenged his dad to find someone at Toyota to help him make it.
 
“My son is very passionate about humanity and is always coming up with inventions to help people,” Curry says. “When he drew it up I knew it was a good idea. I knew Toyota did a lot in the community and wanted to see if this was an idea they could get behind.”
 
He made some calls and was eventually connected to Chuck Gulash, senior executive engineer at Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) in Michigan. It took a couple of months to connect the dots, but his son’s enthusiasm never wavered.
 
“Every time I came home from work Bishop would ask me if Toyota was going to build his car seat,” Curry says.
 
Finding the Right Partners
 
The invention – either a retrofit that is attached to a car seat or an actual seat – alerts police and parents by text if a child is left in the car. Fans activate to keep the child cool enough to survive being left in a hot car for at least 30 minutes.
 
Gulash liked the idea and pitched it to his contact at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which has a child injury prevention group that addresses car seat safety. They invited Bishop and his dad to attend the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies' annual conference Plymouth, Mich., in November.
 
The Currys also toured Toyota’s CSRC, met with Gulash’s team and observed the latest in automotive safety research. The CSRC partners with leading universities, hospitals, research institutions and federal agencies to focus on safety research projects aimed at developing and bringing to market new and advanced safety technologies.
 
“When I told my son, he was excited about the fact this invention could potentially save lives,” says Curry who says the idea has been patented. “We’re excited about this exposure and hope it takes off. We’re also thankful for Toyota, Chuck and his connections in Philadelphia.”
 
Curry is a new team member hired in March. “I’m a man of faith,” he says. “And it very well may be, if I wasn’t I hired by a company with a passion for humanity like Toyota, where would this idea have gone?”
 
 By Karen Nielsen

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