Students at Benjamin Banneker High School worried about would happen if a school shooting happened on their campus. They invented a device to keep a gunman out of their classrooms. MIT liked the concept so much, the school gave the students a grant to develop it.
The shocking events of the Sandy Hook shooting rocked the nation last year, and inspired a few Benjamin Banneker Academic High School students to take matters into their own hands.
The robotics club at Benjamin Banneker designed an emergency door-lock prototype called DeadStop, developed to be affordable, detachable and easy to lock on to the door in the case of an active shooter.
“We were concerned about the Sandy Hook shooting and the many lives that were taken – young kids’ lives,” junior Deonté Antrom said. “We realized that we need to put an end to all this shooting.”
Doors at Benjamin Banneker and many schools across the country are unable to be secured from inside the classroom due to fire code violations. The DeadStop device is designed to clamp onto the door hinge at the top of the door, preventing it from being opened.
“We have pondered for years how to protect our students while they're in class,” Principal Anita Berger said. “We were trying to come up with a solution to that.”
Like many D.C. schools, Benjamin Banneker has metal detectors at the entrance of the building. But students express doubt that these metal detectors can deter any potential shooters.
“In my opinion, it only focuses on kids and doesn't check adults,” Antrom said. “Even though we have security guards at the desk that are supposed to protect us, if the guard isn't on duty, an intruder can easily walk into the school.”
The robotics club started the DeadStop project toward the end of the 2013 school year, when the club had only four members; it now has about 10.
The project gained speed when the team was recently awarded a $6,600 grant from the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams program.
The Benjamin Banneker team is one of 15 high school teams selected by InvenTeams throughout the country for imaginative “technological solutions to real-world problems,” according to their website. They are the only D.C.-area school to be awarded this year.
But the students of Benjamin Banneker said the acclaim wasn’t the reason they started the DeadStop project.
“We didn’t do it for college,” junior Anjreyev Harvey said. “We did it for other people, not to put on our application.”
The grant money will go to buying new tools and supplies for the final prototype, which will be made out of metal instead of the original PVC piping.
“When I came to the team, they had a PVC pipe and a nail,” freshmen Mark Miranda said. “There's a flaw for that device, which is the nail bends and I don't think the PVC can take a lot of force. So I came up with the idea to make it a metal clamp…which makes it easier to attach.”
A law firm, Greenberg Traurig, also recently offered the team pro bono services to patent the invention.
The detachable aspect sets DeadStop apart from other emergency door-lock devices currently on the market, which are required to be permanently attached to the door. By making it detachable, teachers won’t have to worry about students locking them out of the classrooms if they step out for a few seconds.
Robotics club sponsor and math teacher John Mahoney gave the students complete creative control over the project. Mahoney only dealt with the application to the InvenTeams program and with the patent application process.
“It's important for it to be a kid-based endeavor,” Mahoney said. “The kids have real ownership of the project.”
The robotics club is working to finish the DeadStop prototype by June, when they will gather in MIT to demonstrate their inventions alongside the 14 other teams. Additionally, the students want to start wide distribution of the device at their own schools and at schools across the country, selling the units for between $10 and $15.
“We hope...that parents can be happy to send their kids to school now that they're safer and secure,” Harvey said.