Engineering a Safe Ride for Children

Manhattan College mechanical engineering students and faculty collaborate to design a motorized car seat that is safe for kids.

Manhattan College mechanical engineering professor Parisa Saboori, Ph.D., began working with engineering students to create a motorized car seat back in 2015. Inspired by seeing her own child slumped in the back seat of her car, Saboori set the goal of designing a seat that adjusts to better position an infant’s neck when they fall asleep, thus preventing neck pain and a wide range of problems including positional asphyxia, which blocks the airways and prevents the babies from breathing properly. 

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Kathia Coronado ’18, Caitlin Hall ’19 and Veronica Valerio ’18, ’19MS started the project together. They began with the basic concept of why the manual car seat should not be used long-term. Next, they looked at existing solutions and determined that the slumping position was inevitable. Coronado, as a programmer, showed how the car seat motion would work. Valerio and Hall worked on the design of the car seat itself and the modeling of the vertebrae and airway. 

Saboori and the Manhattan College students collaborated with students from the City College of New York (CCNY) to create the original prototype of the car seat for their senior design project. The CCNY students involved with working on the prototype include Darren Chu, Hector Torres, Julia Slavis, Julian Lu and Kevin Nogacz. Saboori said that the Manhattan College students working on this multifaceted project “definitely learned more communication skills.”

In the summer of 2018, Jack Consolini ’20, a mechanical engineering student with a concentration in biomechanics, worked on the project for Jasper Summer Research Scholars, a fellowship that allows Manhattan students to pursue on-campus summer research. Magdeline (Maggie) Schoonover ’20, who is also pursuing a concentration in biomechanics, assisted him in recreating the C1-C7 vertebrae, locating the disc between the vertebrae. They then used a 3D printer to see how the alignment of these vertebrae elements work together.

“Being able to conduct research is extremely beneficial for teaching me the other side of the curriculum where I’m actually applying what I’ve learned,” Consolini said. “It’s leading me to want to pursue a masters in biomedical or biomechanical engineering.”

Valerio troubleshooted the prototype and completed the coding that tells the device how to adjust positions. Using the NX modeling software, she performed stress and strain tests based on values associated with the baby’s position, and determined which positions are detrimental to the cervical spine. These practical coding skills come in handy for Valerio daily at her internship with Siemens Healthineers. “Everyone if given the opportunity should take part in research projects because you just learn so much more,” she said. 

Other Manhattan College students who have been involved in the production of the project include Patrick Kowalski ’16, Thiago Benedetti ’16, Gregory Alves ’16, Elizabeth Finkelstein ’17, Ryan D’Emic ’17, Jennifer Vazquez ’17 and Gregory Bohn ’18.

Currently, the team is working on finishing the prototype for the car seat in order to have a working model to use in finding a sponsor and conducting crash testing. There is predicted to be a three-year patent process ahead. A new pair of senior design students, Gabrielle Formoso ’21 and Adriana Verdugo ’21, will continue working on this research project in spring 2020. 

Sponsored by the Jasper Summer Research Scholars program, Consolini and Schoonover will both give poster presentations at the annual International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition (IMECE) in November 2019 at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. IMECE has an undergraduate track, giving these students a unique opportunity to present their research.

Story & Video by Laura Meoli-Ferrigon & Camryn Holly ’21.

Laura Meoli-Ferrigon