BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Although April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month has come to an end, one Woodside resident—and high school senior—is working on a way to prevent assault year-round.
Hunter Alves, 16, who attends Manhattan’s Dwight School, has created a tracking device to combat sexual assault that sends out warnings when a person is in danger.
Alves was able to create HŌLT— Hidden Observation Location Tracker—through her school’s Spark Tank Program, which gives students a platform to present their original ideas at all stages of development.
HŌLT, which would be paired with an iPhone app and is approximately the size of a dime, is designed to have four features, three of which are buttons that would alert family and friends of dangerous situations by severity.
For example, device holders could set up the app to contact family, friends or law enforcement if they believed themselves to be in danger. The first button would send the contact a message that says, “I feel uneasy, but I’m OK.” The second button would send a message such as, “Please call me; I’m a bit uneasy,” while the third button would relay a “drastic alert” to family, friends or law enforcement regarding the sender’s safety in a given situation.
“The concealable device can be worn underneath clothing and is beneficial if a person is walking on campus or down a dark street or is in any situation that causes them to feel uneasy,” Alves said. “It’s a way to promote safety and confidence.”
Alves came up with the idea while visiting colleges with her parents. At that time, questions regarding safety and security were among their primary concerns.
“Although most of the schools we visited have the blue-light feature, it didn’t seem as immediate as a form of security should be,” Alves said. “We were trying to search for another way to protect in case of danger and I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t want to have to wait those few minutes for campus security because anything can happen. In the case of sexual assault, having an immediate form of security can change so much in comparison to a few minutes waiting for help.”
According to Alves, if a person is in a situation where he or she is being sexually assaulted or is concerned about being assaulted, the device’s owner could immediately press the emergency button. She also believes that HŌLT—if it catches on—could become a preventative measure to deter perpetrators.
“My main goal is to dissuade sexual assault from happening,” Alves said. “One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college. HŌLT could dissuade the sexual assaulters—lowering the numbers of sexual assault—and it will also give people confidence that they are safe.”
The final feature would be the ability to record when a sexual assault takes place and allow the victim to present evidence in court in case a suspect denies the act.
Alves credits Dwight’s Spark Tank program and school’s motto—“Igniting the spark of genius in every child.”
“If I didn’t go to Dwight and I didn’t have that spark of genius engraved in me, I wouldn’t have had confidence or motivation to bring this device to light or to my community,” Alves said.
Alves will attend the University of California, Berkeley this fall and plans to go on to study medicine.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org