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Student’s invention takes weight off kids’ shoulders

WITH the new school year back in full swing, St Mary’s College students could soon be carrying a lighter load thanks to the invention of a year 11 student whose device ensures backpack weight meets safety guidelines.

Lucy Eade said seeing students struggle with heavy backpacks inspired her to create ‘I’ve got your back: Safety Backpack’ for an independent Science Engineering Mathematics and Technology (STEM) project.

“There are many studies out there that prove children carrying backpacks that are more than 10 per cent of their body weight can receive serious injuries that not only affect their current health, but also their long-term health into adulthood,” she said.

“I surveyed students from St Mary’s and discovered 87 per cent of them carried backpacks more than 10 per cent of their own body weight.”

Lucy’s system, which used an electronic prototyping platform, allowed students to test their backpacks with either the purpose-built LCD board displaying the words ‘safe weight’ or a LED light illuminating when a bag’s too heavy.

“Not a lot of people are aware of the damage that can occur to students who carry heavy bags, so it’s important to educate students and help them to avoid this risk,” Lucy said.

Having written the device’s code, creating hardware and an LCD extension system, Lucy said the next challenge would be making a wireless model that could be placed into students’ lockers so they could easily weigh their bags before they left school.

St Mary’s College principal Helen Spencer said Lucy’s project allowed students to see how STEM learnings were rolled out from theory through to real world practice.

“Our science program and dedicated teachers means that students are capable of tackling and solving issues both inside and beyond the classroom,” she said.

Lucy’s Safety Backpack was recently selected as one of 26 finalists from around the country in the BPH Foundation Science and Engineering Awards, one of Australia’s most prestigious STEM competitions.

Caption: Lucy Eade, from St Mary’s College, has created an invention to help students lighten the load in their backpacks.