Will This $15 Device Protect Against School Shootings?

High school students in Washington D.C. have designed the DeadStop, a simple attachment that instantly locks armed intruders out of classrooms

school hallway
Courtesy of Flickr user SingSkateRockLuv

In the tragic aftermath of the Newtown school massacre, as is the case every time there’s a school shooting, Americans debated what should be done to ensure the safety of innocent schoolchildren. Gun control advocates are pushing to limit access to deadly weapons by imposing tougher firearm regulations, while the National Rifle Association suggests that armed security guards be stationed at every school in the country.

A group of students at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington D.C. has responded differently. The students have taken it upon themselves to come up with a device that prevents armed intruders from breaking into a classroom. Their invention, the DeadStop, is lightweight, shaped like a small, cup-sized plastic cylinder and easily slips over the common large hydraulic hinge known as a “door closer“  in just seconds.

“So many kids and adults were killed (at Sandy Hook). So we got together and we wanted to know how we could stop intruders from entering our school,” Deonté Antrom, a junior at Benjamin Banneker, said in an interview published on NBCNews.com.

Credit: Benjamin Banneker Academic High School

The school, like many others across the nation, is equipped with doors that cannot be locked from the inside, in order to comply with building code regulations that allow for unobstructed campus-wide evacuations in case of a fire and other disasters. The DeadStop was designed as a workaround, preserving that need for a quick exit in an emergency while also enabling the class to secure itself inside the room when needed.

The design team of ten students, led by math teacher John Mahoney, started out with a prototype made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubing typically found in hardware stores and used a nail to keep the device fastened in place. The flaw with that early concept was that it was not rigid enough to keep the door tightly sealed, so the students are currently developing another version built from metal that would enable the device to work like a clamp.

“The device we have is detachable. It will just be in the teacher’s desk and when there is an announcement that there is a shooter in the building, they will be able to take it out and simply install it on the hinge,” Anjreyev Harvey, another junior on the team, told NBC News. “And how we have it designed, no matter how much the shooter shoots through the glass, or shoots at the hinge, he won’t be able to open (the door).”

Side-locking doors can be used by mischievous students to lock teachers out of their own classrooms, another reason why they are not typically used, and with the DeadStop being portable enough to be slipped into a bag or stored elsewhere, it can conveniently be kept in the teacher’s possession at all times.

The DeadStop is similar to another device called the Jamblock. Invented by Pittsburgh schoolteacher Bob Ploskunak, the Jamblock is designed to easily slip under the door and jam any attempts by gunmen to force themselves in. The lock is already being used by schools in two local districts and, like DeadStop, is garnering attention.

Students at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School hope to patent and release a final product of DeadStop that costs no more than $15. To make this possible, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has awarded the students a $6,600 grant as part of the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams program, which was created to inspire and motivate high school students to “cultivate their creativity and experience invention.”

The team will demonstrate its invention at MIT in June 2014.

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