UI alumnae develop device to reduce assault risk

By Christin Watkins

Kabaghe and Nikita Parikh, both University alumnae, developed a device called Anansi to reduce the risk of sexual assault on campuses. But their inspiration came from an unlikely place.

“I was longboarding, and I actually fell off of my board. One of the most frightening things was that I could tell that I was falling off of my board, but I couldn’t react quick enough,” Kabaghe said.

This encouraged the pair to create a device that would allow students to get help when their thought process might be stunted because they’re in a distressed situation.

“There are a lot of situations where your mind kind-of knows something bad is happening, but you can’t react fast enough to stop it,” she said.

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When situations like this occur, the body responds with the “fight or flight” response, which this device can detect once it passes a certain threshold and alert the local authorities, Kabaghe and Parikh said. http://www.ece.illinois.edu/newsroom/article/11779

College students are much more likely to find themselves in undesirable safety situations because of late-night studying and socializing, Parikh said.

Meredith Ellis, freshman in LAS, said students need a way to prevent sexual assault, but she is unsure how effective Anansi will be.

“I’d be worried about false alarms with it,” she said. “You could suddenly have a reaction, even if you’re not being assaulted.”

Ashley Stahulak, freshman in Engineering, voiced the same concerns about the device’s ability to detect the seriousness of individual circumstances.

“I feel like you could undergo the same reaction with it in different situations,” she said. “It could work if you only put it on when you knew you were going out.”

Parikh said one of their goals is to reduce sexual assault on campuses. She said she can’t be sure of the effect this device will have yet but she believes it will help students.

“It’s about time that technology caught up with us,” she said.

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