Texas A&M Eagle Scouts invent device that could end fall-related workplace deaths

Hayden (kneeling holding Smart Harness System) and Anthony (second from right) are the two Eagle Scouts on the award-winning Texas A&M engineering team.

Two Eagle Scouts who attend Texas A&M University have won an engineering prize for their project that could end fall-related deaths at the workplace.

Eagle Scouts Richard Hayden Meeks, who goes by Hayden, and Anthony Kornegay were part of a team that created the Smart Harness System. The device issues an audible alert whenever someone is working at an unsafe height but isn’t safely attached to a harness point.

“With the Smart Harness, we aim to save people’s lives by changing human behavior through increased accountability,” Anthony says.

Fall-related incidents are responsible for about one worker death per day. Many of these victims didn’t attach their harness to an anchor point that could’ve saved them.

The Smart Harness System uses a pressure sensor that detects small changes in barometric pressure to determine the user’s relative altitude. The system then detects if the user is connected to a safe anchor point and sounds an alarm if not.

The inside scoop

Smart Harness Systems, LLC, a Texas-based startup, came up with the idea for the device. The company brought the concept to the Texas A&M Mechanical Engineering Department and challenged the students to develop a prototype.

“The device our project team has invented works much in the same way as the seat belt in a car,” Anthony says. “If you’re driving without a seat belt on, your car will typically sound an alarm indicating that you should buckle up. Similarly, our team’s invention will alert the harness user if they are working at unsafe heights.”

The company is planning to make the device commercially available in early 2019.

For their efforts, Anthony, Hayden and the project team won the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Commercialization Award at the university’s annual Engineering Project Showcase.

More than 200 projects were submitted for the honor. The winner is the team whose project is most prepared for market.

Hayden shows off the device.

How Scouting prepared them

Both Anthony and Hayden come from the Dallas-based Circle Ten Council. Anthony earned the Eagle Scout Award in 2012 as a member of Troop 181 of Plano, Texas. Hayden earned Eagle in 2012 as a member of Troop 81 of Richardson, Texas.

Both young men say Scouting helped prepare them for the rigors of earning a degree at one of the nation’s top engineering schools.

Hayden says working on his Eagle Scout project was especially beneficial.

“It taught me to work with other people in terms of sharing ideas and working together towards similar solutions,” he says. “Scouts helped me open up to other people, and I am thankful for the memories it gave me.”

Anthony also cites teamwork as a key lesson learned in Scouting.

“Through general patrol and troop activities as well as going on treks to Philmont and Northern Tier, I learned about group dynamics and how to be an effective team member,” he says. “These experiences taught me that the ability to follow or work well alongside others is often as important as the ability to lead, and that it’s important to know which of these roles fits best in a given situation.”