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VISIONS '24 Youth of the Year: Nevaeh Craven, Layla Crayon, Hulet Neely and Shania Stewart
A team determined to save lives
Youth of the Year
Hulet likes to describe it as the gift that keeps on giving.
Layla Crayon

Scientific innovations from around the world are saving lives each and every day. But for the next big innovation, look no further than right here in Newton County.

Meet Nevaeh Craven, Layla Crayon, Hulet Neely and Shania Stewart, a group of young student-scientists at the Newton College and Career Academy STEM institute and creators of the Quick Save CPR mat.

The Quick Save CPR mat is a portable medical device designed to save lives in times of a medical emergency. The mat is placed across the patient’s chest and provides voice commands to direct users on proper hand placement and pressure needed to perform CPR.

While the mat has the potential to be a significant innovation in the medical field, the origins of the mat came from a place that many people would not expect.

“We were actually in our English-language class, and it was a part of a Shark Tank project,” Crayon said. “We had to come up with a project for the advancement of health care, and so my group thought about ‘Hey, a CPR mat.’”

That’s right… an ELA class was where this scientific innovation was berthed. 

As the group began their preliminary research on the project, they were surprised to see the data regarding CPR-related deaths. They found that oftentimes with CPR, it’s the amount of pressure that makes a big difference.

“It’s often a common mistake to not apply enough pressure when performing CPR,” Stewart said.

Once the team figured out that data, they made the decision to pivot from a pressure sensor to the Quick Save CPR mat.

Amid their research, the group discovered that many of the mistakes that come along with CPR are due to lack of training and people forgetting how to properly do it.

“We had to do a lot of research and background for the overall thing and so when we were looking it up we learned that with CPR some mistakes, is that people sometimes don’t do it correctly because some of them aren’t caught up in their training,” Stewart said. “Usually with CPR training, you go to the procedure once and then you kind of forget about it when nothing happens. In times of emergency people aren’t aware of what to do properly.”

After the group created the prototype, they were encouraged to enter the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition by the STEM Institute program director, Laura Lambert.

“Essentially at first, it was really just a project for our class and our STEM director, Mrs. Lambert, she really thought that our project would be a really good entry for the Samsung competition,” Neely said.  “So she asked us if we were okay with entering it into the competition and of course we agreed and we just decided to go from there.”

That turned out to be a wise decision by the group, as they were named state finalists in the Solve for Tomorrow competition back in December 2023. With that distinction, they were awarded a $2,500 Samsung prize package for the school as well as a top 300 nationwide honor.

From there, the group were recognized across the school district for their achievements, something that they were surprised to see.

“We’re still kind of like letting it set in. We were actually like pretty surprised,” Craven said. “We knew we did pretty good when we did the project, but I don’t think we thought it was gonna go that far.”

But their accomplishments go beyond the school district. Recently, the group of young student-scientists finished 5th at the HOSA state leadership competition, adding to their list of achievements from the project.

“Hulet likes to describe it as the gift that keeps on giving,” Crayon said. “Because we keep winning things with it, we keep receiving recognition for our brilliant work.”

As they progress through their academic careers, all four members of the team plan to continue their work in the medical field in the future.

Craven, Crayon and Neely – all juniors – plan to attend college and medical school when they graduate from the Newton County School System. Stewart, the lone senior of the group, plans to attend college and medical school as well and further her studies in clinical research.

While the group will inevitably go their separate ways in the future, they still plan to further develop the CPR mat, hoping to make a lasting impact in the medical field.

“We want to see how much further we can go with the mat,” Stewart said. “‘Cause we do want to create something that can help others.”