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Vietnamese students invent ‘life shirt’ to prevent drowning

Sunday, October 20, 2019, 08:45 GMT+7
Vietnamese students invent ‘life shirt’ to prevent drowning
Trinh Bao Ngoc (L) and Nguyen Tieng Lap test their final product. Photo: Trong Nhan / Tuoi Tre

A group of Vietnamese university students have invented a T-shirt that instantly transforms into a life jacket in water-related emergencies, an innovation that could save thousands of lives in a country that averages 16 deaths from drowning each day.

Nguyen Tieng Lap, 21, and his team from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology earned the runner-up spot at the 'Creative Idea Contest 2019' (CiC 2019) organized by the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City thanks to their ‘life shirt’ – a T-shirt that can instantly transform into a personal flotation device.

Judges at the competition praised the ‘life shirt’ for both its comfort and functionality, particularly in the context of the massive number of drownings that occurs each year in Vietnam.

The life shirt is essentially a T-shirt with a flotation device attached to the collar and two small bags of citric acid – a compound found in lemons and other sour foods – and sodium bicarbonate. 

When the two compounds are combined, they produce carbon dioxide (CO2) which fills the flotation device and causes the shirt to float.

“All you need to do is touch your chest and wait about six seconds to see the magic,” Trinh Xuan Tam, 21, who is Tam's teammate, explained.

“Citric acid and sodium bicarbonate are widely used in the food industry, so they are completely safe for humans,” said Trinh Bao Ngoc, another co-inventor.

Lap’s team say their next steps are to research the specific amount of each chemical needed to match people’s specific weight, as well as design a 'life belt' which will have the same function as the T-shirt.

Lap first came up with the idea to create a 'life shirt' two years ago after becoming aware of the thousands of children who die from drowning each year in Vietnam, especially in remote areas. 

Throughout the design process, the team worked with professors from their university to ensure the shirt’s efficacy.

Do Quang Dong, a professor at the Vietnam-Japan Institute of Technology, said that the 'life shirt' idea was brilliant due to its practicability and potential compared to other products on the market.

“We liked it that the design helps the body balance itself and can relieve the user from a nervous breakdown when falling into water,” he said.

Lap and Ngoc were the only two in their seven-member team that stuck with the project during the two years of design.

The duo now plan to promote it to the domestic market.

Nguyen Thi Mai Huong, the founder of the 'Colour Pencils' online teaching application who served as the project’s mentor, offered the team a lot of useful advice and guaranteed to call for financial support to help them pursue their dream.

“Great mentors make great students,” Huong added.

Lap and Ngoc plan to continue promoting the life shirt at 'SV Start-Up 2019' in October – an event organized by the Ministry of Education and Training for students to promote their start-up ideas.

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