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When 16-year-old Sabeel Basheer, a student of New Indian Model School (NIMS), Dubai, witnessed his friend Mohammed Farhan Faisal's death in 2019, he swore no child would ever meet the same fate.
Farhan is believed to have suffocated after being left behind in a bus while going to an Islamic studies centre in Al Qouz. The young boy's death had gained immense media attention and spurred a debate about child safety on school buses.
For Sabeel, the discussions were not enough. In 2020, the 10th grader invented Sabeel's Smart Vigilant System amidst the pandemic after taking a few crash courses in computer programming.
The device can alert authorities if a child is left behind in a school bus within 30 seconds of the driver turning off the bus's engines and closing its doors.
In early May, Sabeel was awarded a UAE Golden Visa for his invention and efforts in using the technology to improve students' safety.
"Sabeel received the Golden Visa on the first day of Ramadan. He got it from Dubai Culture. He has been able to patent his invention as well," said Sabeel's father, Basheer Moideen, a long-term resident of Dubai.
"I'm thrilled after receiving the Golden Visa. It is a tremendous honour for my family and me," said Sabeel.
"We are also thankful that Sabeel got an opportunity to present his invention at the Dubai Expo 2020's Opportunity Pavilion," added Moideen.
Khaleej Times first reported Sabeel's story in 2020. While the device was in its development stages at that time, it was re-purposed into an end-to-end safety system for school buses.
The vigilance system is now undergoing mass manufacturing in India, China, and Taiwan. The Moideen family hope the authorities will install the device in all school buses across the UAE.
"We do not want any child to meet Farhan's fate," father and son said.
An employee of Toyota's research and development department, Moideen, said the family worked on all additional developments for the device with the help of the UAE government authorities in the transport and infrastructure departments.
"However, the foundation of the system remains the same," Sabeel told Khaleej Times over a phone call.
"In case a student gets stuck, and in the rare case a nanny does not check if every child has left the bus, the school will scan the closed bus for students left behind," he explained.
Using artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced thermal sensor technology, the device can scan the bus for children's heartbeat, motion, and breath.
"Children sometimes doze off in the bus," said the Thrissur native. "The sensor sends out an alarm in 30 seconds. It would automatically open the doors, and messages would go to the police, ambulance, and school transportation management," explained Sabeel.
According to a study conducted by Sabeel and his father, the temperature in school buses go up to 99 degrees after exposure to the sun for 10 minutes. "It has devastating consequences for a child. The bus will have no oxygen," he said. Sabeel's device now provides complete student safety solutions, including the vehicle's health and the state of the bus driver.
"The device checks if the air conditioner is working, if the engine is in good condition, the driver's health is in a good state, if he's sleeping off while driving, etc.," said Moideen. The device also checks if the driver is reckless, braking unexpectedly and if they are using a phone while driving. Reckless lane change is also monitored, and reports are sent to authorities.
Before boarding the bus, students undergo a temperate check. Special quarantine sections are made on the bus if the child has a fever. If a bus meets with an accident, alerts are sent to police and ambulance authorities.
"We have also developed a mobile application through which parents get an advance notification on when the child would reach home. Parents will have to come down to pick up their children only when the child is five minutes away from home," explained Moideen.
Sabeel's name means the 'path' in Arabic. "The government authorities overseeing the project decided to name it Sabeel, as its meaning matches his name," he said.
While Farhan's family came home to Kerala, India, after the tragedy, Sabeel said he thinks of him often. "I feel despondent each time I think of him. I witnessed this tragedy with my own eyes. I don't want it to happen to anyone. "I would meet Farhan at the madrassa, and we would spend time together," he added.
Sabeel hopes to study engineering once he completes school and would like to continue inventing safety products for children.
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