Walmart announces infant car seat designed to prevent hot car deaths

— Walmart and Evenflo announced this week a new infant car seat with technology designed to remind drivers of their backseat passengers, and stop children from dying in hot cars.

In most new cars, an alert sounds if a driver or passenger is not wearing a seat belt or if headlights are left on. Using a similar idea, a sensor on the infant seat harness triggers a series of tones if a child is still buckled in when the ignition is switched off. The feature is meant to remind drivers who might forget that a child is in the vehicle.

On average, 38 children die every year as a result of being trapped in hot cars. In about half the cases, children are forgotten in the back seat, according to the nonprofit Often, a parent has forgotten to drop a child off at daycare.

The Evenflo Advanced Embrace with SensorSafe infant car seat retails for about $150, which is comparable to other popular infant car seats on the market. It has a wireless receiver that plugs into a car’s on-board diagnostic port and syncs with the chest clip that goes around the baby. It does not require the use of Bluetooth, cellular or other devices, the companies said.

Research and testing was done on the sound, to make sure it wasn’t too similar to existing car sounds, or popular smart phone ring tones, said Sarah McKinney, Walmart’s director of corporate communications.

“It’s the first and only crash-tested car seat that has this type of technology embedded,” McKinney said. “Right now (on the market) it’s more attachments or accessories or mobile apps, but there’s not one that’s an actual car seat that has this technology.”

The car seat will be available exclusively at Walmart for one year. It’s available now on and will be in stores mid-August. The new car seat is part of an expansion in Walmart’s baby department, adding about 20 new brands in the past two years, McKinney said.

As recently as last year, David Friedman, the acting administrator of the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration, warned that the technology to protect children and adults from heatstroke “just doesn’t seem to be there yet.” Janette E. Fennell, founder and president of, said she has a list of hundreds of products invented by well-meaning people to prevent children from dying in a hot car, and the new Evenflo car seat is the most promising development so far. Her organization has been pushing for driver reminder systems to reduce deaths.

“This is the first time where I can say with a great deal of confidence that there is something that works, and you’ve got some big companies behind it, and it will save lives,” Fennell said. “Because it’s been crash tested, I have a high degree of faith that it will work, and you don’t have to do anything extra. … it’s literally getting it set up one time and then every time you put the baby in, of course you’re going to close the chest clip and then it’s activated.”

People with Down syndrome sit for stunning portraits

— Icelandic photographer Sigga Ella wanted to show that people with Down syndrome are more than a chromosomal abnormality. They are diverse and they’re unique, just like everyone else in the world.

Ella’s series, “First and foremost I am,” consists of 21 portraits of people ranging from 9 months to 60 years old. She chose the number 21 to represent chromosome 21, the location of the most common genetic mutation causing the condition. It is currently on exhibit at the Reykjavík Museum of Photography and will be featured in May at the Warsaw Festival of Art Photography.

Ella shot the photos in 2013 and 2014 as part of a final project at The School of Photography in Reykjavik. She recently shared the images with CNN iReport.

The inspiration started with a radio interview Ella heard in which people were discussing ethical questions brought up by prenatal tests to detect birth defects. She hopes her photos shine a light on “the beauty and diversity of mankind” and make us wonder if a future without that diversity is desirable.

“I am not against prenatal/genetic testing for abnormalities but I think we need to stop and think what’s next. … It’s necessary to open the discussion and educate people more about Down syndrome. It’s not a disease or a flaw. Parents of children with Down syndrome … wouldn’t exchange them for anything in the world.”

The title of the series, “First and foremost I am,” comes from a newspaper article by Halldora Jonsdottir, a 30-year-old woman who is also featured in Ella’s project.

“I have Down syndrome but FIRST AND FOREMOST I AM Halldora,” Jonsdottir writes. “I do a million things that other people do. My life is meaningful and good because I choose to be positive and see the good things in life. I go to work, attend school and have hobbies.”

Jonsdottir goes on to say, “Who is perfect? Who can say, that we who have Down syndrome are worth less that anyone else? We are all different and would it be so great if we were all alike?”

Ella staged the portraits against a floral background because she wanted the subjects “to stand out but also underline that all kinds of flowers can grow and flourish together.” The photo shoots lasted from one to three hours. She said she didn’t give any coaching or direction for how they should pose; she just talked with them and waited for the right moment to shoot.

“My favorite part of this project was how relaxed the atmosphere was. No one was pretending to be anything, the emotions were real and some of the times, there was such genuine happiness.”


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College kids make robotic arms for children without real ones

— By the time Cynthia Falardeau read about Alex Pring, a little boy who got a battery-powered robotic arm last summer, she had made peace with her son Wyatt’s limb difference.

Her premature baby had been born with his right arm tangled in amniotic bands. At a week old, doctors amputated his dead forearm and hand. They were afraid his body would be become infected and he would die. Falardeau mourned her boy’s missing arm for years but, in time, embraced her son as he was.

Wyatt also learned to adapt. They tried a couple of prosthetics when he was younger and each time the toddler abandoned the false limb within months.

“His main interest was to create a shocking response from onlookers by pulling it off in the grocery store,” Falardeau wrote on CNN iReport. In truth, she had been more concerned about getting him therapy for his autism-related delays — the limb difference was secondary.

So when a friend shared a story from the “Today Show” with Wyatt in mind, about a team of University of Central Florida (UCF) students and graduates that made an electronic arm for 6-year-old Pring using a three-dimensional printer on campus, Falardeau was defensive.

“He doesn’t need this,” she thought.

Her fifth-grader had a different reaction: “I want one of these robot arms!” Falardeau remembers Wyatt telling her and her husband. “I could ride a bike! I might even be able to paddle a kayak!”

There were other things the 12-year-old boy said he would do if he had two hands. A proper somersault. Clap with two hands. Dance with a pretty girl with one hand on her back and the other leading. Stuff she hadn’t really thought about but he clearly had.

Falardeau got in touch with the Orlando students through E-Nable, an online volunteer organization started by Rochester Institute of Technology research scientist Jon Schull to match people who have 3-D printers with children in need of hands and arms. The organization creates and shares bionic arm designs for free download at that can be assembled for as little as $20 to $50. Middle and high school student groups and Girl and Boy Scout troops are among those donating their time and materials to assemble limbs for kids and give them to recipients for free.

The UCF team, which operates a nonprofit called Limbitless Solutions, is special because it’s the only group in the 3-D volunteer network making electronic arms. Most 3-D arms are mechanical, which presents a challenge for children without elbows. With mechanical arms, the child opens and closes their hand by bending their elbow. The students came up with the idea for an electronic arm with a muscle sensor that allows the child to open and close their hand by flexing their bicep.

“It’s really just a step-by-step process of solving problems. The first problem we solved was: how do we make the hand move electronically? And then: how do we attach this arm to a child?” said sophomore Tyler Petresky. “It’s just one problem after another we keep solving. That’s what engineering is all about.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 1,500 babies in the United States are born with upper limb deformities each year. Comprehensive statistics aren’t available for the number of children with amputations, such as Wyatt.

The UCF project started when Albert Manero, an engineering doctoral student, heard a story on the radio about one of the inventors of the 3-D printed hand. He got involved with E-Nable and met Alex, a local boy teased because of his missing arm, and set about designing a robotic replacement. They gave it to Alex for free.

“My mother taught us that we’re supposed to help change the world,” Manero said at the time. “We’re supposed to help make it better.”

The students were blown away by what happened after that. The “Today Show” and other national news outlets featured stories about Alex and Manero, and then they got international attention. Families in more than 25 countries have asked the UCF students to help their children. In February, Microsoft highlighted the team in a social media campaign celebrating students using technology to change the world.

Each electronic limb takes about 30 to 50 hours to make and assemble. The students use the printer in the school’s manufacturing lab and cover the cost of materials — about $350 — through donations.

Petresky got involved with the design of Pring’s hand because Manero knew he was good with electronics.

“He bribed me with some pulled pork sandwiches. I went over to his house and helped him out with electronics,” he said. “I found out he was working on an arm, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world.”

Eventually Manero moved to Germany for a Fulbright scholarship and left Petresky in charge of running the operations in Orlando.

Petresky says they ask every family about the child’s favorite color, superhero and interests, so the new limb can “not just be a piece of plastic … but be a part of them.”

As they’ve designed the bionics, they’ve learned that kids don’t necessarily want to blend in. Children have requested colorful designs inspired by superheroes, Disney’s “Frozen,” and in Wyatt’s case, the blue-skinned men from “Blue Man Group.” For Christmas, the group upgraded Alex’s plain vanilla white arm to a new one resembling Optimus Prime from “Transformers.”

“We quickly found out this is much less about fitting in and feeling normal, and much more about expressing yourself,” Petresky said. “There’s a large aspect of being artistic and being creative.”

The team has made electronic arms for five children and are working with three more kids including Wyatt. He traveled with his mom to UCF last week and practiced flexing his muscle to make the hand open and close.

He expects to get fitted with his new arm later this month.

His mom, Cynthia, was most excited about seeing Wyatt being celebrated for who he is.

“The adoration of college students was an affirmation that money can’t buy. He was wrapped in the joy of leading and advising students on how to help children like himself,” she wrote in her iReport. “Wyatt felt like he was making a difference for himself and other children.”

As they got ready to leave the campus, her son told her he can’t wait to see what he will accomplish with his new arm. And someday, he said, he wants to go to UCF and help other kids like him.


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