Vest to detect seizures wins national Stem prize

A vest which can detect epileptic seizures up to eight minutes before they occur has been recognised by this year’s Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Competition.

Teenagers Sankha Kahagala-Gamage and David Bernstein were jointly awarded the UK Young Engineer prize after being inspired by witnessing an epileptic fit.

The students from Loughborough Grammar School developed a wearable vest that monitors heart rate variability and body temperature to predict an epileptic seizure. The MediVest then sends a message to both the wearer’s phone, as well as possibly a carer to warn them that they need help.

More than 500 finalists from were selected to show their ideas at the Big Bang Fair, the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK, and 10 were shortlisted to pitch Dragon’s Den-style to a panel of high profile judges.

“It just goes to show if you truly believe in your invention and you put enough work in, you will succeed,” said Kahagala-Gamage. I hope the MediVest will inspire the next set of engineers in 2018.”

The teenagers hope to develop the vest further and are seeking funding to continue their work. To date the innovation has been funded by friends and family and the school’s Parent Teacher Association.

Wearable technology to monitor epilepsy has been available for the past few years, but in the form of watches that monitor heart rate and sleep. 

“One of the most challenging things about epilepsy is the unpredictable nature of the condition and never knowing when a seizure is going to happen. This kind of technology could therefore be useful in giving people warning of seizures so they can make themselves safe or send for help,” said a spokeswoman for charity Epilepsy Action.

“Sankha and David have done a fantastic job with their project. Not only have they put their technical skills to good use, but it’s wonderful to see how they were compelled to do something positive after they saw someone have a seizure. It’s sadly all too common for people with epilepsy to be ignored or even discriminated against because of their condition. It doesn’t have to be this way, and Sankha and David’s maturity and attitude are an inspiration to us all.”

The awards were part of the annual Big Bang Fair, held at Birmingham NEC from 15-18 March 2017, which again broke its attendance record this year. 

This article first appeared on the Professional Engineering website.

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