July 8, 2014

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children under the age of five are twice as likely to die in a house fire as the general population. A contributing factor to this risk rate is the difficulty for children to open their windows manually, consequently cutting off an escape route.

While practicing a fire drill at home, Mike Fabre became alarmed when his son was unable to open the bedroom window and would run to the garage to attempt escape.

“My 4 year old told me about the fire drill conducted at his nursery one day,” said Fabre. “This event prompted me to facilitate a fire drill at home. The child chose to escape through the garage, could not reach the electric opener and became trapped.

The experience inspired Fabre to design a window-opening machine, and then Fabre approached students in LSU’s College of Engineering to improve his prototype.

“I define good luck as the intersection of opportunity and empowerment,” said Fabre. “I realized the need, created a solution, realized it could be improved and LSU Engineering’s Capstone program was the answer.”

The LSU engineering senior design team researched and built “Geaux Escape,” a system to facilitate a child’s escape from a burning building.

“We developed a system which allows a child to open a window by the push of a button in the event of a fire,” said Rachel Champagne, Geaux Escape team member. “Opening in less than 15 seconds, the significance of this model is the ability to reduce the risk of child death from smoke inhalation by providing a fast and easy escape route.”

Using a linear actuator paired with a block and tackle system design, cables wrap around a set of pulleys three times. Connected to a 12 volt DC battery, the configuration gives the system the ability to achieve three inches of vertical windowpane motion for every inch of actuator stroke.

In addition to the window escape design, the team also uses multiple methods to alert a child of the presence of smoke and fire. Geaux Escape’s safety alerts attempt to trigger three human senses – hearing, sight and touch – to invoke an escape response.

“Not only does a fire alarm sound, but it also activates a voice module with a parent’s recorded message, a bed vibrator for any child which may be hard of hearing and also flashing amber lights reduce distractions to help guide a child toward the window in limited visibility,” said Champagne.

The group members said the most important life skill they learned during this project was teamwork.

“Working as a team involves communicating effectively, being reliable and actively participating throughout the whole project.”

Geaux Escape team members Travis Brink, Rachel Champagne, Doug Ferrara, Ryan Winningham were advised by Dr. Kidong Park and Dr. Warren Waggenspack.

Mike Fabre, Geaux Escape project sponsor, is proceeding with further testing and production for future market availability.

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Article by Danielle Kelley, LSU College of Engineering communications intern. For more information, contact Mimi LaValle, 225-578-5706, mlavall@lsu.edu



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