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Life jacket design contest offers chance to win $5,000

January 12, 2011 | 10:18 am

Kid_jacket1 Think you can build a better life jacket? If so, break out your inner Sheldon Cooper and get imaginative -- you could be in the running for a $5,000 award being given to the winning designer in the "Innovations in Life Jacket Design" competition.

The BoatUS Foundation, Underwriters Laboratories and the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Assn. have teamed up to seek out the newest technologies and design innovations with the goal of rethinking a 100-year-old design and creating a more comfortable life jacket that  boaters and water-sports enthusiasts would be more likely to wear.

"While current models of life jackets save lives every day, many are still bulky and uncomfortable, leaving boaters reluctant to wear them," said Chris Edmonston, BoatUS vice president of boating safety. "This competition hopes to challenge that mindset."

There are no rules regarding types of materials to be used or whether the design meets any current U.S. standards. "This is the time to be unconventional in your thinking about what a life jacket has to look or feel like," Edmonston said.

Entries will be judged based on four criteria: Wearability (the level of comfort); reliability (taking into account the chances for potential failure); cost (the affordability of the design); and innovation (originality or the employment of new technologies).

To enter, video footage of an actual working prototype must be submitted by providing a URL link to the video (no actual prototypes will be accepted). The video must clearly demonstrate how the design floats a person in the water. Better hurry though -- the deadline for entering is Feb. 1.

In early February, all entered videos will be posted online at the BoatUS Foundation's YouTube channel and the public will be asked to vote for a group of finalists. Finalist entries are to be reviewed by a panel of judges convened at the International Boating and Water Safety Summit, March 6-9 in Savannah, Ga., and the winner announced.

For more information on how to enter and for contest rules, go to BoatUS.com/Foundation/lifejacketdesign or call Chris Edmonston at (703) 823-9550, ext. 8356.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A girl wearing a life jacket from the BoatUS Foundation. Credit: Eric Amato / BoatU.S.