The topic of school safety is one that spoke to Maddelyn Ryckman.
The Culpeper County High School student and her E-Squared team decided to find a way to address it.
Secure and Safe- consisting of Ryckman, Ryan Eakins, Armani Hoffman and Jessica Janiszewski – won the E-Squared Competition April 26 with their portable, handheld scanning device to help law enforcement detect weapons to prevent mass casualty events.
“How many of you have spent countless hours in the lines at the airport?” Ryckman asked during their presentation to the E-Squared judges Thursday. “Our device will simpilize the process by mobilizing a full body scanner and metal detector to decrease the amount of time it will take to get through the line.”
The team secured the $20,000 scholarship money offered through E-Squared by asking the Shark Tank-like investors for $210,000 for a 25 percent stake in their company with an expected 100 percent return by year five.
Eakins explained during the presentation that their scanner increases safety and efficiency and that security personnel could use their device to provide a full custodial search without any intrusion to the body.
“With school shootings on minds nationwide, our product is perfect for the education field as well,” Janiszowski explained. “School police could scan students prior to entering the building and to alleviate unease.”
Designed to be lightweight, handheld and efficient, the device the students presented a mock up of weighed just a little more than a pound and a half and integrated a millimeter scanner with a metal detector, including a color coded scanner to indicate threat level and vibration alert.
Ryckman thought of the idea while traveling to work in Manassas one day, prior to the shooting at Parkland, Fla. in February.
“It was just based on all of the events going on at schools,” Ryckman said. “Over the years we’ve heard so many more TV broadcasts of all the problems going on and the dangers increasing in schools. We just thought it would be a great idea to alleviate police officers and their struggle with coming so close to harm’s way.”
The students met with police chiefs – including Orange and Culpeper – to find out what needs law enforcement had and if they thought the device would be useful. All said the Secure and Safe idea would help detect a threat and limit the contact an officer would have with an individual.
“We definitely did a boatload of research,” Ryckman said. “We knew at airports they did have the full body scanners and based on that technology we could probably go further with that. Through research we saw other applications the millimeter waves would be able to go through.”
Hoffman said it was intimidating standing in front of the eight judges.
“It was very nerve wracking,” Hoffman said. “I had my trust in these guys and everything we did together. We’re so close now and I wouldn’t want to win this with anyone else.”
The Secure and Safe team presented their product with confidence and didn’t waver when former Culpeper County Administrator Frank Bossio grilled them about millimeter waves and the fact that sweat could cause false readings.
“We put a lot of effort into the presentation aspect,” Janiszowski said. “How we wanted to word it to get the most emphasis on things and to show how big of an impact it would have on the world. I’m certainly not very great at public speaking, but it’s definitely helped me get better. I’m certainly thankful for that.”
Former Culpeper County School board member George Dasher and Paul Pereira from Bingham and Taylor served as coaches for the team.
“They were a blessing in disguise,” Eakins said. “They had their own set knowledge to help us improve. Mr. Dasher was an engineer, Mr. Pereira was the leading engineer for Bingham and Taylor. They both had a ton of information to build our protect and morph it into something that could transform the nation.”
Dasher said that he’s been coaching for six years, and in those six years this was the best business plan he’s seen.
Ryckman said the group wasn’t sure if they would market their product idea, but believes it would help the nation.
“I think if anyone could come and implement this device in the real world, that would be amazing,” Ryckman said.
Other teams that presented in the finals included BrewIt, Cut & Carry, Copper Cutlery, Relive Sleeve and Toss’T.