HE'S yet to finish high school, but Afework Assefa has designed a device that could save lives.
The year 12 student at Redeemer Baptist School in North Parramatta came second in the engineering category of the BHP Billiton Science and Engineering Awards for a car seat he designed to set off an alarm if a child is left unattended in a hot vehicle.
Mr Assefa said the prototype was built in August and aims to "stop the many deaths that occur" in those circumstances.
"The uniqueness of this project is that everything about the alarm system is self-contained in the car seat," he said.
"Other devices are usually dependent on the intervention of parents. They might have to have a key ring, or press a button in the car.
"There are four sensors that work in tandem to detect if there is a baby in the seat, not a shopping bag or anything else," he said.
Mr Assefa said the alarm goes off when all of four sensors — three for temperature on the base, side and top of the seat, and a pressure sensor in the centre of the seat — are triggered.
"Through investigation I found out that if the temperature centre under the seat is 28 degrees, that means the car overall is very hot and the roof is 40 degrees," he said.
Mr Assefa said the project had its challenges.
"Simulating a baby was a major part of the project," he said. "I got a seven watt reptile heat mat and wrapped it around the doll, but it was only heating the top part of the doll, not anywhere else, and it was getting to degrees above the normal temperature for a baby.
"I [eventually] put foil and a tea towel around the heat mat and that got the 'baby' to 36 degrees, which is a baby's normal temperature."