As the first female Technical Account Manager and then Licensing Sales Specialist at Microsoft in Saudi Arabia, Reem Alattas ’16 knows well how to nudge doors open for herself and her ideas. That’s why pushing the door of invention open at UB as a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science and Engineering was a natural for her. That invention – a safety helmet for cyclists that reinforces direction of the vehicle – is on course to come to market in 2016, with the objective of capturing 25 percent of the helmet market share within the first five years.
Under the mentorship of Professor Neal Lewis in his TCMG 580: New Product Commercialization course, Alattas turned a capstone project into her first registered U.S. patent on November 26, 2014. This “first” for her has the potential of saving countless lives for others across the globe. UBecome reached out to Reem to learn more about her patented technology, her educational experience at UB, and what her next “first” might be.
I heard of UB from a friend of mine who is in the naturopathic program, and I immediately fell in love with the Ph.D. program in Computer Science and Engineering because it bridges the gap between science and engineering.
Little did I realize that UB would open the door of invention for me. I have always wanted to invent useful stuff to improve people’s lives, but coming from a pure scientific background I only knew how to simulate devices I thought of on computer programs. The engineering side of UB’s Ph.D. program simplified making the physical prototypes, and the technology management classes helped in creating a plan for commercializing these devices.
For safety purposes, cyclists often use hand signals to indicate their intended direction while in traffic. For example, to indicate a left turn signal a cyclist may extend their left arm straight out in the direction of the turn; ditto for the right hand single/right turn. Many cyclists also wear helmets when biking for safety purposes; in some U.S. states it’s the law. Integrating the various turn signals into the helmet design increases the cyclist’s visibility to oncoming traffic and clarifies the cyclist’s future direction.
The light described system I invented uses Passive Infrared (PIR) sensors that can be operated noninvasively. The hand-free operation, without physically pushing any buttons, follows the movement of the hand signals. So all the cyclist needs to do is carry out the appropriate hand signal to activate the corresponding turn signal. The straight ahead signal is activated once the cycling process starts, using sensors on the bike; same goes for the slow down signal.
My registered patent is a utility patent for the technology of adaptive light system that is embedded into the helmet design. This technology-driven helmet can protect cyclists on a bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, moped, or any other vehicle on the current market or to come that requires protective headgear.
UB has also helped me by arranging and holding research days and career fairs to network with professionals and academics from all over the world and learn from their experiences and best practices. UB helped as well by sending me to various conferences – like the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Conference and the Long Island Systems, Applications and Technology Conference – to participate, represent UB, and share my accomplishments with others.
On the more personal side, UB has expanded my social circle to a global arena. I have met friends here from all over the world, and they have each taught me about their countries, cultures, and the most-used phrases in their languages. That type of education has literally opened the door to the world for me.
I am becoming a new person who is capable of doing new things to improve the world, a person who can go anywhere in the world without fear or doubt because at UB I have met people from almost every part of the globe. Meeting people from all over the world has improved my cultural awareness and developed my understanding of other ethnic groups. Moreover, it has emboldened me to travel because nowadays I have a friend in every continent!