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Richmond youth devise wearable panic button

Tech-savvy teens explore ways to keep women around the world safe
youth panic
Faazi Walij (left), Sophia Bucior (middle) and Vedanshi Vala (right) formed team HP-TIE in April, which is short for ‘Harnessing the Power of Technology through Innovation and Engineering.’ Photo submitted

Three youths from Richmond and Vancouver are creating something they believe the world needs — an alarm device that connects women to their family or friends in emergency situations.

Team HP-TIE (Harvesting the Power of Technology through Innovation and Engineering), by McRoberts secondary students Vedanshi Vala and Faazi Waliji, and Vancouver’s Sophia Bucior, are competing in the Anu & Naveen Jain Women’s Safety XPRIZE, a global competition encouraging technologies that help ensure women’s safety.

“We want to provide a reliable, effective and affordable device available to everyone in the world,” said team leader Vala.

The team is working on a wearable device with a panic button that can connect the user’s phone to their family or friends’ 

“When you press the panic button on the device, it will send the distress signal and your location to them,” said Vala. “In this way, women can build up their own personal safety system.”

The device can save women’s lives in emergencies where dialing 911 is not possible.

“Let’s say you have a smartphone, but it’s usually in the purse. When you walk on the street and something bad happened, you can’t really pull it out and trigger the alert to 911.

“Not to mention that in some countries, the police are less efficient and don’t tend to respond to emergency calls quickly enough,” Vala added.

The team got together after hearing about violence against women across the world. The three tech-savvy students felt technology was something that could make a difference.

“One in three women in the world have faced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and almost four billion people across the world don’t have access to centralized emergency response systems. This is very shocking,” said Vala.

“In an age where technology development is everywhere, we still don’t have a concrete solution that can assure the safety of people. We believe we are able to build this tool to improve the situation.”

Vala explained that the project is still in the design phase and more work and research needs to be done. A prototype is slated to come out early next year.

“As youth, we don’t have a lot of experience with these technologies, but we will learn, research the technologies and seek guidance from experts. Eventually we will turn the idea into reality,” she said.

The team is competing against more than 80 other teams drawn from professional app developers, technology researchers and top-tier academic institutions for a $1-million grant award. But Vala said that whether they are selected or not, they will continue developing the device and hopefully bring it to the market in the future.

“We can’t wait to share our product with the community and empower safety for all.”