Car seat conundrums solved


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Michael Clamman has studied ergonomics since 2000, but he first noticed the problems his sister-in-law was having 14 years ago. Heavy infant car seats, strollers that are awkward to lift into cars, diaper-changing accessories designed strictly for shorter women and the material handling problems that come from “chasing a mobile, living creature” are all ergonomic nightmares for parents.

Michael Clamman and David Kaber, an ISyE professor at N.C. State, have devised a better handle for infant car seats. Their solution, which uses the Bennett angle for hand tools as a basis for its design, helps users transfer pressure from their forearms to their biceps when lifting the seat. This firmer grip also reduces the risk of dropping the infant car seat. The researchers also invalidated previous claims that parents should put one foot in the car while lifting the infant car seats. Although the posture did shift some muscle activity from the forearm to the bicep, parents whacked their heads on the doorframe more frequently, and the posture was not stable.

Kaber said the materials are designed for durability only. During the study, researchers noticed that the car seat struck people’s legs on a constant basis. They hope for a more giving, lightweight, yet durable, material. Clamman said stories of parents suffering from lower back and shoulder problems are legion. Infant car seats are just one part of what he sees as a large field of research that could be done for parents. For instance, Clamman was injured from his child’s travel system, which is an integrated child seat and stroller. He had to pick it up and place it in the back of his wife’s minivan or his SUV.