Thursday, May 9, 2019 | 2 a.m.
As adults across the United States grapple with the troubling rise of teen vaping, five Las Vegas teens think they might have found a solution.
Jaiden Reddy, Deven Reddy, Shivam Saran, Rishabh Saran and Tanush Saran, all students at Clark High School, have developed a device that can track and gradually reduce the amount of nicotine consumed from e-cigarettes, often referred to as vaporizers or vapes. For their invention, called VapeMate, the students were recognized as Pete Conrad Scholars at the 2018-19 Conrad Challenge summit in April in Orlando, Fla.
The Las Vegas-area students were selected out of more than 400 participants from across the world as finalists eligible to attend the summit. The Pete Conrad Scholarship is the most prestigious award given at the conference, and the Clark students were one of eight teams to receive the honor.
The student’s winning project, VapeMate, is a device that vape users can attach to their e-cigarette. The device is connected to a mobile app that users can download and that tells them how much nicotine they’re consuming.
“Then it also substantiates the impacts that come with this, so how much it affects your lungs and the amount of carcinogens you take in,” explained Rishabh, a junior. “And it also recommends a plan, so users can get off the vaping addiction they have.”
The students described the device as the Weight Watchers of vaping, because it enables users to set a daily nicotine limit and then blocks users from continuing to vape once they hit their limit. Over time, the device reduces the daily cap.
“That way, over a period of time, you gradually get off your nicotine addiction,” said Shivam, a senior.
The students — Jaiden and Deven are brothers, and Shivam, Rishabh and Ranush are also brothers — were inspired to develop VapeMate after witnessing the negative impacts that vaping and nicotine addiction have on some of their peers.
“Some people in our school vape, even some of our close friends, and basically, we wanted to look into this issue more,” said Deven, a junior. “So when we did research, we found some shocking statistics.”
Sometimes marketed as a healthier alternative to cigarettes or a way to curb cigarette addiction, vapes have created an entirely new addiction problem, especially for young people, the students say. And they anticipate that the problem will only grow worse.
“Vaping is attacking the younger population. It’s affecting middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students, which eventually is going to keep spreading,” said Tanush, a freshman. “While it’s huge [now], I feel like it’s pretty small compared to what it’s going to be.”
In addition to developing the technology behind their device, the students also created a 20-page business plan as part of their entry into the Conrad Challenge. From researching how VapeMate could be produced on a large scale, they have determined that it would cost $2.61 per device.
They have also found, through careful research, that demand exists already for VapeMate. The students conducted a market survey that targeted members of the general population who use e-cigarettes, asking them if they would try VapeMate to quit vaping. Fifty-four percent of respondents said yes.
“Considering how vast and humongous the market is, 54 percent is a huge chunk of people we could help get off their addiction,” Shivam said.
Through attending the summit, the students were able to talk to experts about how to eventually market their project to investors and find a way to distribute it. In addition, as part of their prize, they are receiving assistance in the process of obtaining a non-provisional patent for the product and in getting the product into the market.
Michele Hernandez, the magnet coordinator at Clark High School and adviser to the students, noted that VapeMate could make a difference for students who vape at CCSD schools.
“I know it would be interesting to bring this to the superintendent in the school district, because he does realize how large of a problem it is with our students,” Hernandez said.
She added that the project was entirely driven by the students — she just advised and helped them get to the conference.
“I think they’re outstanding students,” Hernandez said.