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The University of Alabama

UA Teams with Dentist to Build a Better Child Safety Seat

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — News reports of a teenager unable to free a toddler from a burning vehicle’s child safety seat helped convince a Rome, Ga. dentist his idea of an alternative quick release mechanism for such seats was needed.

The dentist, Dr. Michael Blackmon, teamed with The University of Alabama and others to take his concept from inspiration, to patented idea, to reality, and now hopes to take the two emergency harness release inventions to the large-scale production stage.

The point of the inventions is to provide an easy, alternative way to quickly remove a child from a safety seat in an emergency situation – even if the person, such as a bystander following a crash, removing the child was unfamiliar with the seat’s normal latching operation.

Both methods add mechanisms to existing child safety seats and, in addition to the quick release capabilities, also provide options for removing a child should the standard release become jammed during the crash or if it was inaccessible in a crumpled vehicle, the developers say.

Blackmon, whose own children are 11 and 8, said he conceived the idea several years ago when looking at his then pre-school age children strapped into their car seats.

“They looked like little jet fighter pilots sitting back there.”

And while fighter pilots have more than one option to remove themselves from restraint mechanisms during an emergency, there was only one option, the standard release, for removing his children.  

Under an agreement, the dentist’s patent application was assigned to The University of Alabama. And, UA’s Alabama Innovation and Mentoring of Entrepreneurs Center, known as AIME, and its Office for Technology Transfer are assisting Blackmon in further development of a business model.

Dr. William Gathings, director of UA’s Office for Technology Transfer, and Dr. Richard Swatloski, a licensing associate in the same UA office, are lending their expertise to the project.  

Working together with Joe McGinty of Huntsville, the group designed and produced two emergency release mechanisms built to Department of Transportation specifications.

The group developed prototypes and is approaching car seat manufacturers.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.