Water-purifying shoes and other wearable tech ideas from Wake students

Wake County high school students brainstorm, prototype wearable technology

VIDEO: Hear about some of the prototypes created at the 2nd annual Wake County Design Blitz held at Red Hat in Raleigh.
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VIDEO: Hear about some of the prototypes created at the 2nd annual Wake County Design Blitz held at Red Hat in Raleigh.

Hats with solar panels that wirelessly charge smartphones and shoes that purify water may sound unreal, but they’re part of a future that Wake County high school students can envision.

About 120 design and engineering students from 11 Wake high schools brainstormed Wednesday at the Red Hat Annex in downtown Raleigh about how to use wearable technology to solve problems.

What emerged from the 2nd annual Wake County Design Blitz are prototype designs that Elizabeth Luna, a graphic design teacher at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh, says could become a reality in the next 10 years.

“Wearable tech, the kids are so into the technology right now,” said Luna, who came up with the idea of the Design Blitz. “That’s their big thing, that’s what they’re all connected to. It’s the up-and-coming thing of where all design and stuff is coming from.”

Luna partnered with local design experts who worked with teams of students to help them develop prototypes using objects such as Styrofoam and pipe cleaners.

The winning design was a jacket that would help the homeless stay warm, monitor their medical information and connect them to services such as homeless shelters and food banks.

While the other 29 teams didn’t get the top prize, they showed their creativity to come up with possible answers to some common problems.

Body Tech would mount unobtrusive diagnostic sensors on a shirt worn by patients.

“It will be more comfortable for patients to wear and makes it less nerve-racking for young people when they come to the hospital to visit them,” said Allison Deanhardt, 17, a junior at Green Hope High School in Cary.

Sound2Sight would help people with hearing issues by attaching devices to eyeglass frames that pick up the sounds from spoken words and transmit them on the frames.

“It would definitely make it easier for people to communicate with each other,” said Madison Railton, 17, a student at Middle Creek High School in Apex.

H2Go would connect a pair of shoes with a vest to provide safe drinking water for people in third-world countries. As the shoes make contact with water, the liquid would be picked up, filtered and contained in an insulated vest.

“This can help with a life-and-death problem and not just a convenience issue,” said Caleb Murray, 16, a sophomore at Middle Creek High.

Andie Strohm, 15, a sophomore at Athens Drive High, said the opportunity to spend the day working with students from other schools was worth the time, although her team’s tattoo design didn’t win.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” she said. “It made you think, and I like to build things.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui