Approximately 1.2% of the U.S. population — 3.4 million people — have epilepsy according to the CDC. Living with epilepsy involves learning how to manage seizures and still lead a full, active life. Uma Smith is a recent Pratt Institute graduate who was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 11. She is also the 2019 James Dyson National Award winner for Cocoon, a smart epileptic seizure protection kit that serves as a portable safe space for people with epilepsy.

Cocoon has three functions: protect the person having a seizure, alert caregivers, and inform passersby. A person with epilepsy who experiences a trigger that signals an oncoming seizure unfolds the Cocoon, places it in a safe location to lie down, and slips a protective fabric over the top of their head. Magnetic sensors detect the unfolding and send alerts to designated caregivers with the GPS location. Built-in accelerometers monitor convulsions. If the convulsions do not cease within five minutes, the Cocoon communications chip calls for an ambulance. Words and graphics on the material inform passersby about basic first aid for someone during a seizure.

Smith’s invention and two runners-up in the U.S. competition go on to the world finals at Dyson. Smith plans to continue to refine Cocoon prototypes for safety and ease of use and to eventually submit her invention to the FDA for approval.