As the younger generation work to make schools safer through the legislative process, another teenager has directed his attention on shop class. One Wisconsin student's shop class invention, the JustinKase, could save lives during school shootings. Even locked doors haven't often saved students in school shootings — but this device has the power to keep a door shut in nearly all circumstances.
Justin Rivard, a high school senior from Somerset, Wisconsin, was trying to figure out how to make schools safer on a challenge from his technology and engineering teacher Eric Olson. The patent-pending device he came up with is made of steel plates and connecting rods. It slides under the bottom of the door and connects to the door jam, preventing it from being opened — no matter what.
"You can lock a door with a lock, it can get shot out," Rivard told Minneapolis NBC affiliate KARE. "You can lock a door with this, it can't get shot out. You can't get around it."
The teenager says that high school football players have attempted to push a door with the JustinKase open to no avail — "You don't want to use it, but just in case you need it, it'll be there."
Rivard's high school has not experienced a shooting but, like many districts, has had active shooter training. He said that's when he saw the need. "The main problem was all these, all these kids in a building who have nothing but a door to keep them safe," Rivard told Minneapolis CBS affiliate WCCO.
During the active shooter training, Rivard's homeroom barricaded their door with a large table, but it became clear that if the lock were disabled (by being shot out, for example) the table wouldn't be a big enough obstacle. "That's where I thought, 'You know what this is something that I need to go after.' This was something that was kind of made for me to do," Rivard told WCCO.
"Once I made the prototype, I took it to every classroom and I asked teachers you know, 'What do you think about it, do you think that this is a good idea,'" Rivard added. Now, not only every room in his high school has one, but also every room in the district. The local elementary and middle schools also ordered them.
Shannon Donnelly, Somerset High's principal, has one. She expects everyone in the building, student and teacher, to know how to set the device in place.
"We immediately, within a week of having these, went through an entire drill, all throughout the building, really walking through students and staff," Donnelly told USA Today.
Olson, the tech teacher, was not surprised by Rivard's success, telling KARE, "he's the special combination of motivation and brains and has a motor that just keeps going."
"A lot of times when we're teaching welding you can just put two pieces of metal together. But what ... we're hoping for is to look at ability to be able to solve a problem," Olson added to WCCO.
One device is $95. Currently, Rivard runs the business himself, but next year his father will take over when he joins the Army. There's another similar item on the market, but it's more expensive, and according to Rivard, it's more complicated to set up on the door.
This kind of device could have made a difference to some of the injured in Parkland, Florida, last week. One student was shot several times trying to keep the door shut to protect his fellow classmates. Students, parents, and schools may welcome such a device.