Students designs device to keep kids safe

by Lee Ann Jastillana / Beacon Correspondent • March 22, 2017

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Ducy’s KiPS idea could help parents easily track their children.
Ducy’s KiPS idea could help parents easily track their children.

About 17 years ago, a regular day at the beach took an abrupt turn when 3-year-old Sierra Ducey found herself lost and completely panicked. Luckily, a man pointed her to the lifeguard who then returned her to her father. For Ducey, now a junior marketing communication major, this experience became the inspiration behind her current entrepreneurial project, Kids Positioning System, or KiPS, a geographic tracking device that enables parents to track their kids’ locations.  

The concept of KiPS includes a simple bracelet for children, with GPS monitoring and a notification vibration system. The E3 Expo, a capstone event that highlights the work of entrepreneurship minors, will showcase KiPS, among many other products and business ventures. This year’s expo is scheduled for April 21.

Although there is no current prototype, Ducey imagines the bracelet as a combination between a Livestrong and a Fitbit bracelet with an adjustable band to accommodate a child’s wrist. According to Ducey, many similar products on the market are large in size and bulky, so she tailored her product to be small, kid-friendly, and lightweight with very simple functions.

The bracelet would then pair with a smartphone app that parents can download onto their phones. The app would only contain a map that tracks the children and a notification system.

Because she frequently spent time at San Diego’s beaches as a child, Ducey designed KiPS as a waterproof device with a long-lasting battery life. Ducey continues to come up with potential design features every day.

“Every time you talk to someone about it, they have a new and interesting idea for you,” she said.

According to Ducey, the first semester of the entrepreneurial program centers on the basics of entrepreneurship and idea formation. The second half revolves around concrete planning on one’s finalized business venture and culminates in the E3 Expo. This year, E3 partnered with the entrepreneurial program at MIT.

Lea LeBlanc, a senior communications studies major, said the E3 program is very collaborative. According to LeBlanc, who is developing underwear for women with incontinence, her class would regularly practice their pitches in front of each other and give feedback on content, slides, and overall presentation.

As the culmination of Emerson’s entrepreneurship program, the E3 Expo students pitch their ideas in front of a panel of judges in hopes of winning monetary prizes to support their projects. Other projects include a food truck, a grocery app, and a music, fashion, and art festival.

This year the panel will consist of an investor, an experienced entrepreneur, an academic, and a representative from MIT’s entrepreneurship program. First, second, and third place will win $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000 respectively.

Ducey said she regularly converses with parents—mostly moms—and takes their feedback into consideration. She said that though she has not formed a formal focus group for these conversations, she approaches parents at dinners or social events when the opportunity presents itself.

Through talks with mothers, she’s placed safety as the priority of her product and has also explored other formats for the device. Ducey said she discovered that parents are more interested in using the device for special trips, not necessarily on an everyday basis.

“Every mom you talk to tells you about that situation where they were in the mall or the museum, and they look down and their kid wasn’t next to them anymore, and it’s an immediate panic,” Ducey said.

Ducey had been developing the idea informally with her brother for about five years now. As it stands, Ducey’s project is in its very early stages. She plans to work on app development and product design over the next few weeks to come up with a more concrete idea of her device.

“People have come up with very large ideas that will take a lot of work and financial resources in order to create,” Ducey said. “Lu Ann by no means tells us to back off from striving to do that.”  

Lu Ann Reeb, Ducey’s mentor and E3 director, believes Ducey’s project solves a relevant problem.

“Especially in today’s world, parents are super sensitive about safety for the little child,” Reeb said. “I think that anything that technology brings to make the world a little bit safer for kids is awesome.”

Ducey attended the exposition at the Bill Bordy Theater her freshman year and said that it was the closest thing Emerson gets to the ABC show Shark Tank. Booths of individual students’ projects decorate the perimeter of the Bill Bordy. After the keynote speech, participants take the stage, delivering five minute speeches one at a time.

After seeing the E3 students in action at the expo, Ducey knew that the program was something she wanted to do herself. Ducey said she is both nervous and excited.

“It always seemed so far away, but now we are less than a month out which is crazy to think about,” Ducey said. “I think it will be a very rewarding experience to be able to pitch an idea in a situation like this, with a real investment on the line.”  

Ducey said that if she wins the expo, she would then want to talk to a technology professional to come up with prototypes that can be tested out in mock scenarios.

With 800,000 children reported missing in the United States each year, Ducey hopes that technology like this could help bring down those numbers.