Skip to main content

Vancouver Island students invent self-heating life-jacket, win science fair prize

Share
Oak Bay, B.C. -

At Turkey Head Breakwater in Oak Bay, there's a reason no one's swimming.

Temperature-wise, there's little difference in the water between December and August. Dipping a toe in always feels frigid.

And it felt frigid over the summer when Grade 8 student Liam Pope-Lau had an experience that led him to an idea.

"I was sailing and I capsized," Pope-Lau told CTV News.

"So, I was in the water, and even in – I think it was – July, it was really cold."

The chilly dip led Pope-Lau to a deep dive on hypothermia.

"I realized it kills almost, like, I think it was 8,000 people per year in the U.S. alone," he said.

Pope-Lau teamed up with his friend Fraser Tuck, and the self-heating life-jacket was born.

"It's actually just a pouch to attach to a life-jacket that is filled with a chemical that reacts with the water," Tuck explained.

The chemical? Calcium chloride. The same stuff used to de-ice sidewalks and driveways in the winter.

The pair started taking their invention to science fairs, eventually earning a $5,000 award from the B.C. Science Fair Foundation.

The students say one pouch lasts 30 to 40 minutes, which could warm a person in the water long enough for rescuers to find them.

The boys said they imagined cruise ships and ferries using their life-jackets in the future, along with coast guard and search and rescue crews.

As a product, Pope-Lau and Tuck think their life-jacket has potential, but the best return on their investment won't be financial.

"I just want to see it actually save a life," Tuck said.

With files from CTV Vancouver Island's Jordan Cunningham

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

DEVELOPING

DEVELOPING Motive of man who tried to assassinate Donald Trump remains elusive

Former U.S. president Donald Trump called for unity and resilience after an attempt on his life injected fresh uncertainty into an already tumultuous presidential campaign, while President Joe Biden implored Americans to 'cool it down' in the final stretch and 'resolve our differences at the ballot box.'

LIVE RNC UPDATES

LIVE RNC UPDATES Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell booed at RNC

The Republican National Convention kicked off this week, with delegates and officials descending on Wisconsin amid the tumult that follows a Saturday assassination attempt on Trump as he becomes the GOP’s official nominee. Follow for live updates of the RNC.

Stay Connected