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Seattle third-graders hope to save lives with the swimsuit of the future

Winners of a national contest invent an inflatable suit

SEATTLE — Four Seattle third-graders invented the bathing suit of the future. And for their efforts, they won first prize in the largest S.T.E.M. competition in the world. "I jumped off my bed," said Charles Laun, describing his reaction when he heard his team from St. Joseph School won the honor.

They call it the "iSuit." Still in the prototype phase, the suit theoretically will sense when a swimmer is in trouble and blow up the suit. "It will inflate and help you float so you're safe," said team-member Eli Kim. It's not in production yet, but "Someone could make it," said fellow team-member Billy Fisk.

Sensors built into the suit would note an elevated heartrate. They'd send a signal to the artificial intelligence which would then alert the oxygen crystals to inflate the suit. Radio waves would then call for help.

Isaac Mesfin was in charge of artificial intelligence. Laun handled the sensors. Fisk says they located the oxygen crystals from a university in Denmark. And Kim designed the radio wave system. All four won a trip to Washington, DC to receive the award (they're there right now), a ten-thousand-dollar savings bond, a computer for the school, a cup, a pencil, and one more thing... "We got a bouncy ball!" said Isaac.

The competition is part of the 27th Annual Toshiba and NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) ExploraVision Program. The Seattle team competed with 14-thousand other kids. 

They did have other ideas, like a shrink ray or a happy pill. But "then we thought which one would really help the world most," said Eli.

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