Every year, millions of people over the age of 65 experience a fall. According to the CDC, if such a fall leads to a broken or fractured bone, one in three patients will die within a year.
Brendan Tyrell, a second year mechanical engineering student from Ambler, Pennsylvania, is spending his first co-op experience working with a company that hopes to prevent these kinds of injuries from happening.
Tango, a company based in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, are the makers of the Tango Belt, a wearable personal safety device that uses motion-tracking technology to detect a fall and deploy an airbag to protect the wearer.
“When I was looking for a co-op opportunity, I wanted to do something really techy and to maybe work with robotics,” Tyrell said. “I went searching for companies, and I found Tango. They’re a really small company with an important goal, and I connected with that.”
The difference between the Tango Belt and fall detection products like smart watches and wearable alert systems, Tyrell explains, is that the belt can actively detect a fall and prevent injury, where other devices can only react after a fall has happened. For the belt to be successful, it requires a lot of engineering.
“We’re using top-of-the-line accelerometers and gyroscopes with high refresh rates so that the belt can quickly detect a fall and deploy the airbag,” he says. “It’s on the scale of a couple hundred milliseconds. We also need to apply machine learning so the device can differentiate between a fall and simply sitting down or moving your hip.”
Tyrell says that, because of the size of the company, he is getting more opportunities to contribute. He is testing materials to make sure they meet specifications, building modular drop testing machines, and even sitting in on publicity meetings as the company looks for a strategic partner to scale the business.
“I want to get as many experiences as I can – design, manufacturing and business,” he says. “I know that soaking all this up now can help me moving forward.”
Tyrell is also happy to have the opportunity to be learning from a company with a mission.
“Someone who is perfectly fine one day experiences a fall and suddenly they can’t walk up the stairs unassisted anymore,” he says. “It takes away their livelihood. The impact that Tango could have is huge, and I’m thrilled to be part of it.”