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Three South Florida Students Create A Smart Straw To Prevent Rape

Three South Florida high school students have come up with an invention that could protect people from becoming rape victims. What's that invention? They call it the Smart Straw.

Susana Cappello, Carolina Baigorri and Victoria Roca, students at Gulliver Preparatory in Pinecrest, won the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge with their idea. Their Smart Straws are capable of detecting two of the most common elements used in rape drugs, GHB and Ketamine.

Cappello shared the story of how the idea came to fruition.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while in college. Cappello is still a year away from thinking about college, but the issue of sexual assault and college life hit home recently. Her sister is attending Northwestern University, and earlier this year there were reports of sexual assault involving two Greek chapters at the school. 

"This reassured me that there needs to be this product in the market," said Cappello about the first time she read the headline.

Cappello came up with the idea after she remembered reading about another similar product called Undercover Colors, a nail polish that detects certain drugs by changing colors when those drugs are present.

Susana Cappello, Carolina Baigorri and Victoria Roca of Gulliver Preparatory have created a simple device that could prevent rape.

The first iteration of the Smart Straw was actually a piece of jewelry,  Cappello said, "since I love to wear bracelets." But some of the teachers at the school told her that it would be too complicated to make it work since it was a metal. 

Then in a very Isaac Newtonian way, the three classmates came up with straws when they were tossing around different ideas, all while drinking water through, yup, you guessed it, straws. "I remember we just all looked at our straws and mutually we were in sync," says Cappello. 

The straw still has to be produced, and the three friends are working on crowd-sourcing the initial funding required to set up their business venture. That should cover the patenting process and getting some of the prototypes ready for production.

Cappello is already thinking about how to market the idea and get it to as many people as possible, "I envision there will be two ways to get them out there. First I would say selling individual packs of the straws. The second thing is hopefully to distribute them to clubs, bars and restaurants."

The experience of dealing with patent applications and talking with production companies has given Cappello a taste for the business world. "I'll probably continue being an entrepreneur and being my own boss and, of course, go to college," she said. 

Correction: The original version of this story indicated that Susana Cappello, Carolina Baigorri and Victoria Roca, won a business competition in their school, when they won the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge with their idea. We regret the error. 

Luis Hernandez is an award-winning journalist and host whose career spans three decades in cities across the U.S. He’s the host of WLRN’s newest daily talk show, Sundial (Mon-Thu), and the news anchor every afternoon during All Things Considered.
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