Miami Teens Invent Straws That Can Detect Date Rape Drugs

Entrepreneurship runs through the blood of Susana Cappello, a 17-year-old student at Gulliver Prep School in Miami, Florida. Influenced by her entrepreneur father and a love for the hit ABC show Shark Tank, Cappello knew she always wanted to create something of her own.

When she walked into an entrepreneurship class on the first day of her junior year, she immediately teamed up with her current business partners, Victoria Roca and Carolina Baigorri, who all had something in common.

“We were the only few girls in the class,” Cappello said.

Cappello and her friends felt intimidated while drafting their class project, a business plan and product, particularly when comparing themselves to their male peers.

Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the WFMY News 2 App now.

“I was first intimidated because the way the boys in our class pitched was incredible,” Cappello said. “But since they had really good pitches and really good business ideas, it made us motivated and even more excited to really go for this business idea.”

The three young women noted an important world problem that needed a solution which led to the idea that would eventually win them the Miami Herald’s Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

Together they created the company Smart Straws, a straw that helps combat date rape through detected common drugs in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks by simply turning blue.

According to the Office on Women’s Health, the most common date rape drugs include gamma hydroxybutyric (GHB), Ketamine and Rohypnol. The drugs are often colorless and odorless and even tasteless, and when consumed can make users feel confused or event pass out—making any kind sexual relations non-consensual. For Cappello, she wanted to help solve this problem, especially with college students.

SIMILAR: Can Nail Polish Detect Date Rape Drug?

The girls' initial idea fell flat. They first pitched a jewelry pendant could be dipped in a drink to test for GHB and Ketamine. When they brought the idea to the chemistry and bio medical department at school, they were told the idea would be difficult to carry out using jewelry.

The idea of a creating a straw came almost instantly when the girls noticed that they were all drinking out of water bottles with straws. The device was easy to use, accessible, and could test for drugs easier than their previous proposal.

The Smart Straw is made of plastic and is discreet for both men and women to carry. Once dipped in a drink, the chemical strips at the end of the straw will turn blue, which means the drink tests positive for either GHB or Ketamine.

Cappello said she and her partners felt motivated enough to enter the 200-plus applicant Business Plan Challenge, where students all over Miami drafted business plans to impress a panel of judges.

“We just wanted to prove to someone, to our school and our teacher that we could win a business competition,” Cappello said.

And they did. The group became the first from their school to do so in the history of the competition.

Using the momentum of the competition and media attention, the girls hope to push their product into widespread use in bars and social scenes, Cappello said. The group is in contact with lawyers to begin to patent process and will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their invention.

Cappello’s future remains just as hopeful, where she will start her senior year of high school in the fall and continue participating in varsity sports, community service, apply for college—all while managing the business with her friends.

Cappello said girls and minority women who are interested in entrepreneurship shouldn’t doubt their efforts or themselves; instead, they should follow their passion and not be intimidated to reach their goals.

“Find a community…or people who you can connect with,” Cappello said. “And if you do have a business idea—in class or the business world—you can pursue it. You just have to be passionate.”

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
More Stories