Build a better life jacket – and win thousands!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

You know the old saying, &uot;Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door.&uot; Well, to all avid boaters and wannabe inventors, I have an opportunity for you to win $5,000. How? By building a better life jacket.

The April edition of the Coast Guard’s Office of Boating Safety electronic &uot;Waypoints&uot; magazine is carrying information about a new contest being produced by Boat US and the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association (PFDMA) which asks inventors to develop a new personal flotation device – or life jacket. The complete title of the contest is the &uot;Innovation in Life Jacket Design Competition.&uot; The top prize is $5,000.

Why build a new life jacket? According to a recent BoatUS Foundation survey some recreational boaters don’t wear life jackets because they are uncomfortable.

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These are the same comments made by many folks who drive their automobiles without seatbelts.

To address this issue the Boat US Foundation and the PFDMA joined together and invited the general public to think in innovative ways capitalizing on new approaches to technology to design a life jacket that was comfortable. According to the Waypoints article, BoatU.S. Foundation.

President Ruth Wood stated &uot;We believe that out-of-the-box thinking may lead to the next generation of life saving devices. By opening the competition to the widest audience of professionals and amateur tinkerers, we anticipate designs that will be creative and unconventional.&uot;

Would-be Thomas Edisons will be evaluated on four primary points: cost, innovation, reliability, and wearerability. The new jacket also needs to account for performance, and ability to re-create the design. There aren’t any requirements for specific materials or if the new design meets &uot;current&uot; USCG standards.

However, if the new design shows enough promise, an effort will be made to work the design through the approval process.

Entries do not have to include an actual real life model a detailed drawings works just as well.

For more information, including an entry form and contest rules, go to The contest runs from March 31, 2005 to Dec. 15, 2005, with the winner announced at the world-class Miami International Boat Show in Feb. 2006.

Joe DiRenzo is Coast Guard employee who lives in Suffolk. He can be reached at