UMATILLA — A Umatilla Middle School student who won first place at the state science fair in March is now pursuing a patent for her life-saving technology.

Seventh-grader Alexandra “Lexie” Clow won $750 in prize money after her project, called the pediatric heat stroke prevention device, earned her a spot in the international BroadCom competition in Washington D.C. She’s also won awards at the Lockheed Martin Science Challenge in Orlando, netting her an additional $400.

“I haven’t spent a cent of the money I’ve won,” Lexie said. “I want to put it all toward the patent.”

The patent would protect the core mechanics of her device, a car seat designed to alert people when a baby has been left in a hot car, as she continues to promote and develop it.

Lexie and her family decided a couple months ago to pursue the patent as she prepared to go to the state science fair for her second year of competition.

“We thought, hey, let’s help her get a patent on this,” father Rick Clow said. “It’s not really a big deal.”

As they came to find out, it was a bigger deal than they expected.

You might think the patent process is inexpensive and simple, but Rick Clow said the U.S. Patent Office has become the domain of lawyers more than the average person.

Companies have lawyers to handle the process, but individuals have to seek out specialized attorneys.

In the meantime, the family has registered Lexie's project as patent pending, which Clow said was a simple and accessible first step.

To get the rest of the way, the family has started a GoFundMe campaign describing the project and asking for $15,000 to navigate the patent process.

Currently, the GoFundMe is sitting at $1,410. One $100 donation came from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, which also gave Lexie a signal boost for her project after she won the science fair.

Lexie hopes to secure the patent prior to the international science fair in October, where it will go before an international audience.

She also wants the patent so she can take the device to the next level of development. Currently, the device works with a mostly wired system and a few radio frequency transmitters.

It's an independently powered car seat that gets hooked into a car's electronics in order to turn on the lights and honk the horn when it detects the weight of a baby and heat around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. It activates cooling fans to increase a baby's chances of surviving, and the seat also has bright blue LEDs on the side to draw the eye straight toward the seat.

Lexie said she hopes it can be developed as an accessory to smarter cars, with an app to alert parents who are walking away from their car without their child because, yes, it happens.

Ideally, it would even be a part of the car, rather than a standalone seat, she said.

Lexie said her goal was to keep the technology affordable. She used cheap, easily accessible components so it could be replicated for just a few hundred dollars.

"I want to fix something that's a problem locally for us," Lexie said. When she found out Florida had the second most pediatric heat stroke deaths in the U.S., she decided it was a preventable problem and she wanted to solve it.

58 children died of heat stroke in 2018, she said, one of which occurred in Sanford. Lexie thinks she can help lower that number.

Help Lexie on her journey for a patent!

This story originally published to dailycommercial.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.