JHU students shut window on accidents

Two undergraduates from John Hopkins University have invented a new type of locking window guard that could prevent children from falling from windows.

Mike Barnard and Howard Ku designed and built the prototype, which can be opened from the inside by adults but not young children. From the outside, the gate is said to allow easy entry by emergency services, including fire fighters, but it sounds an alarm if a burglar tries to break in.

The window guard project was launched last autumn with funding from the Centre for Injury Research and Policy at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

‘Their gate is accessible to adults but not to young children,’ said Andrew E. Lincoln, assistant research professor at the centre. ‘It has a burglary deterrent but is also accessible to firemen. That’s important because injury-prevention experts want to see window guards in place, but to fire-fighters, the guards are a large obstacle.’

To accomplish this goal, the students devised a hinged steel gate that swings open into the apartment when a spring-mounted bolt is released. The bolt is equipped with two prongs that help it function as a key.

Before it allows the gate to open, the bolt must be turned twice to allow the prongs to slip past their housing. Pulling the spring and manoeuvring the bolt is easy for adults but requires finger strength and mental skills that should make it extremely difficult to open for children younger than nine-years-old.

Although young children should be unable to open the window guard, Barnard and Ku designed the gate so that it snaps open easily from the outside if a fire fighter strikes the bars with an axe.

Any forced entry from the outside causes a loud alarm – powered by a 9-volt battery – to sound. This noise should send away any burglar who uses the same technique to enter, the student inventors said.

The students and their sponsors at the Centre for Injury Research and Policy plan to patent the window guard and look for a possible licensing agreement with a manufacturer who could mass-produce the device.

If manufactured in large quantities, the childproof window gate might cost consumers about $175 each, the students estimate. They say the gate is easily installed with seven mounting screws.