In this week's Around Town column, read about a $1,000 prize awarded to local students for their smart alarm, noise complaints from the Frost Music & Arts Festival and a donation to East Palo Alto police that will help save lives.
CODING FOR THE SOCIAL GOOD ... A group of East Palo Alto Academy students who designed and programmed from scratch a smart alarm for wheelchair-accessible vans has won $1,000 to continue developing the invention. On May 18, the students demonstrated their creation for a panel of high-profile investors, including Bob Baxley, the former head of design at Pinterest and Yahoo, and Jim Fruchterman, the CEO of Benetech and Tech Matters, competing against teams from across the country for prize money. The students built the alarm over many months at their school's makerspace as part of an after-school program geared toward teaching engineering for social good. They created the alarm for a mobility-impaired Mountain View resident who needs a wheelchair ramp to get in and out of her van and often gets stuck when people park too close to the car. "When I see these students, I know the future is in good hands," Mar Hershenson, managing partner at Pear Ventures in Palo Alto, said at the demo day.
SOUND TRAVELS ... Stanford University's historic Frost Amphitheater reopened on May 18, to much fanfare; however, the outdoor venue's first show since its renovation sparked some complaints from neighbors over noise generated by music from its namesake festival that could be heard as far as Mountain View. At least three Menlo Park residents on Santa Margarita Avenue and Alice Lane also notified the police department about the noise; the farthest complaint came nearly 3 miles away from the venue near Seminary Oaks Park. The sound may have bounced to local neighborhoods "at an unusually high rate" due to the cloudy and rainy conditions, according to a statement from Stanford Live, which operates the Frost. Theater staff are configuring their speakers to curb sound for the surrounding community, rain or shine, and are asking for public feedback on where noise is being heard. Stanford Live also noted that the festival's last performer concluded at 9:45 p.m. that night, and it is following Santa Clara County's sound ordinances and curfews. The next test will come on July 10, the venue's next show featuring performances of Tchaikovsky by conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and violinist Gil Shaham, to find out if the issue has been addressed.
RACE AGAINST TIME ... A campaign by a Palo Alto nonprofit to equip schools, libraries and other public facilities with automatic electric defibrillators (AEDs) has now spread to East Palo Alto, where police officers began equipping their police cruisers with the portable devices. East Palo Alto Police Chief Al Pardini announced this week that as of Tuesday, May 28, the department's patrol vehicles are now equipped with the devices, which help restore regular heart rhythm to individuals undergoing cardiac arrest. The addition was made possible by the nonprofit group Racing Hearts, which has been spearheading local efforts to make AEDs available throughout the city. Since 2013, the group has helped install the devices at Palo Alto City Hall, major community centers and eight patrol vehicles. Since then, its reach has grown. Last October, the Palo Alto City Council agreed to equip every patrol vehicle in its own force with an AED. The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office has also recently equipped all of its patrol vehicles with AEDs, according to Racing Hearts. Now, East Palo Alto is following suit. Thanks to generous donation from Racing Hearts, Pardini said in a statement, "our officers will be prepared to render aid in the event they encounter a person in cardiac crisis. Although our officers had previously received training on the operations of AED's, they would only have been able to use them if one was readily available. With the generous donation of the devices from 'Racing Hearts,' each patrol officer will have this potentially lifesaving technology available for their use in their vehicles." Every minute of delay in treatment decreases the victim's chance of survival by 7-10%, according to the group.