Car Seat Black Box

Team 15 – Michael Chen, Bill Nguyen, Sam Tang, Patrick Yen

Ask any new parent if you may hold their infant and you’re likely to get the same advice-be gentle and support the head. There is a good reason for this; numerous studies (not to mention parental instincts) have shown that the skulls of newborns are fragile and remarkably susceptible to deformation. One previously unsuspected cause of head trauma currently being investigated by Children’s Hospital Boston is the design of infant car seats.

To aide the hospital’s research, ECE Senior Project team, “Baby Zetel” (Michael Chen, Bill Nguyen, Sam Tang, and Patrick Yen), was asked to develop a portable car seat monitoring system that records the duration of time a baby is in a car seat. The data obtained from this system will serve to help determine if there is a correlation between car seat positional problems and infant head abnormalities.

The system employs a portable PCB device mounted in a car seat, records the timing using a Freescale HCSO8 microcontroller, and stores the time to EEPROM. It is powered by two AA batteries (good for two months of recording) and senses the baby using an array of micro-switches. End-users are able to transfer data via USB to a PC, access it through a GUI, and save it in a .csv format that is compatible with Microsoft Excel.

“The great thing about our device is that it’s an unobtrusive and automatic system and far more accurate than a stopwatch, pen and paper,” said Yen. “I think the most valuable thing we learned was the importance of properly testing early and often. It really saved us a lot of time in the late stages of our project and ensured that our finished product was high quality and ready for implementation.”