Pictured above – Officer Nick Bramlett from the Bartlett, Tennessee police department checks the installation of a child car seat.

Car seat project came about after the iCube staff partnered with other groups to create the popular Ollie Otter Booster Seat

Cookeville – Anyone who has installed a child car seat knows how important it is to ensure it is done correctly. One ongoing project by the staff at Tennessee Tech University’s iCube has been to help make sure parents are getting it right – and to help seat manufacturers know when a particular seat may need to be redesigned to make installation easier.

Their car seat project came about after the iCube staff partnered with other groups to create the popular Ollie Otter Booster Seat and seat belt Safety Program that travels to schools to talk to elementary students about safety. The National Safety Council reached out to request help with another project.

“They saw the work we did with Ollie and knew that we worked a lot with technology here and asked us to get involved,” said Amanda Powell, virtual reality producer with iCube.

Though there is a national program to train child passenger seat technicians (CPST), those certified to help parents and caregivers select, use and install a correct child restraint for their child, each state had different questions on their forms. The National Safety Council wanted help to consolidate this and make it easily accessible for all technicians.

They wanted a national, digital car seat check form.

“What we’ve done, in a nutshell, is we’ve made the technology side happen,” said Powell.

The iCube staff created the website https://carseatcheckform.org and the accompanying app, making sure any data shared is secure and that the app would allow technicians to work without WiFi if necessary. Any certified CPST can log in and access the now-streamlined forms that are necessary to help ensure a child car seat is installed correctly during an official check.

This has also made it possible to log whenever a CPST sees a car seat installed incorrectly by a parent.

“Car seat manufacturing companies and local agencies have access to this data,” Powell said. “And if they see, for example, this one seat is always being installed incorrectly, they can say, ‘Hey, 80% of the time people aren’t getting this right. We need to change the design.’ Previously, this kind of data had been floating out there with different groups, but never in a form like this.”

Only certified CPSTs can log in and add information, but the information dashboard is available to the public on the website. It currently displays graphs created from more than 107,000 checks performed since 2018. The information covers child restrain misuse, number of checks by state, location and type of seats, vehicle type and more.

Partners with Tech’s iCube on the program included the National Safety Council, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, AAA, Westat and National Child Passenger Safety Board.

“We say ‘iCube: imagine, inspire, innovate.’ We find creative solutions to traditional problems,” said Powell. “We do everything from making apps to marketing and public policy campaigns. A lot of the projects that we do could have national impact, but this one is definitely does.”

Photo courtesy of Tennessee Tech.

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