Technology and Innovation: Snaring Devices

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A Phoenix firm has invented a new tool for law enforcement to stop people fleeing in vehicles. The Safe Quick Undercarriage Immobilization Device, or SQUID, is a self-propelled device that police can use to stop a car by entangling its moving parts underneath the vehicle. Martin Martinez, president of Engineering Science Analysis Corporation, will talk about his company’s invention.

Ted Simons: You've no doubt seen reports of police chases that include officers using stop sticks to deflate the tires of a suspect's vehicle. A Phoenix company is advancing that law enforcement tool with a new technology called Safe Quick Undercarriage Immobilization Device, or SQUID. And it's the focus of tonight's edition of "Horizon's" ongoing series, Arizona technology and innovation. Here to talk about SQUID is Martin Martinez, president of engineering science analysis corporation. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Martin Martinez: good to be here.

Ted Simons: Before we describe exactly what this does, where did this idea come from?

Martin Martinez: Depends where you read it, because it came out of the front page of the "Wall Street Journal" and they said the way we came up with it, I was sitting down drinking a lot of Guiness and smoking cigars. There's a little truth to that, that's a good way to do ideation. But Sharon Ballard helped me put my thoughts together, and later on my father-in-law and I came up with a final design, if you will, over cigars and Guiness.

Ted Simons: OK.

Martin Martinez: So did it happen.

Ted Simons: Let's describe exactly what this device does.

Martin Martinez: The device itself, the original embodiment of the SQUID, there are several spiraled technologies. The way it works is, it stops the vehicle by immobilizing the rotating components underneath the vehicle itself. So as it goes over, it will lock up a drive train, be it the drive shaft, and in essence what it does is lassos the rotating components.

Ted Simons: How does that work? Give us an example, if a car is fleeing, how does -- we're watching a little video here, how does it exactly work?

Martin Martinez: The way it would work, it's in the middle of the road, and as the vehicle goes over, what you're seeing is several embodiedments. That one, you were asking the size, it's less 2 1/2 feet long by 15 inches wide. It's a speed bump. And as the vehicle goes over, the officer would push a button, it throws out these arms which spike the front tires and lassos the front suspension. As it continues going over, it fires tendrils up into the rotating components, and they think of it as a fishing line, it's a fishing leader and it pulls the strap into the rotating components. So it locks up the drive train. It's almost like a spider net.

Ted Simons: Forget the cigar and Guiness, I had read that you were inspired by spiderman.

Martin Martinez: That too.

Ted Simons: So you were inspired by spiderman.

Martin Martinez: Definite.

Ted Simons: I that's how this thing kind of works.

Martin Martinez: Yeah.

Ted Simons: In terms of weight, is this the kind of thing that law enforcement can easily transport? Does it need a little -- how does this work?

Martin Martinez: It's transportable. It weighs less than 50 pounds. When we were developing for the department of homeland security advanced research projects agency, we got it through a grant to develop it. And the whole thing, they wanted something less than 100 pounds, and we ended up coming in pretty much under everything they needed. One thing we did learn was when we were done developing this thing, it was a little too MacGyver for local law enforcement, so we were thinking of other ways of helping. So we thought of spiral technology. So we said, OK, the way the SQUID works, it throws arms out. If you chop an arm off, put an ammo box, now have you a spike strip. So those are some of the videos you're seeing there. That we were calling the SQUID strip. Now it's being called a viper. Another company is actually developing it in the valley, further developing it.

Ted Simons: Talk more about how this original SQUID idea is now advancing. You can -- can't you load these things into the street?

Martin Martinez: Yes. Exactly. And you saw somewhere the spike strip is actually in barriers, so if you're having a police chase and these things are embedded in a barrier, you'd never see it coming. So the police could just push a button, spike strip would come out, spike your tires and reel it back in and you wouldn't know what hit you. The thing about that, we were inspired unfortunately while we were working on the SQUID itself, it takes two years to get there. Well, we were in our first year, and border patrol agent had gotten run over in Yuma, and we had read he was trying to deploy a spike strip trying to get a fleeing felon crossing the border. And he tried to throw it out, you know how dangerous that is. We said, well, what kind of quick technology can we strip off the SQUID right now? We came up with what we call the SQUID strip, and it was self-deploying spike strip.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Response, not in use yet, but being tested, correct?

Martin Martinez: There's another embodiment as well, another speed bump that puts out a net, and it spikes the front tires and it wraps the front tires, like a burrito, and it locks up the vehicle. If you went to our website, you can see the videos where it shows the embodiments that came from the SQUID. That one is being tested by DOD. The spike strip itself, we've been trying to secure more funding from the department of homeland security to further productionize it. We do have working prototypes, everything is there. But trying to penetrate the market is always difficult.

Ted Simons: Talk about the funding aspect as well. Because the department of homeland security is involved, and you're mentions SBR, talk about how you get funding for this particular program.

Martin Martinez: SBIR -- the acronym is small business innovative research. And the federal government, all the agencies have this discretionary funding they put aside, they're required to put it aside. And it's in phases. Phase one what they will do is they'll put a call for need, if you the, and say, OK, you little companies, tell me what crazy ideas you have to solve this problem. Our crazy idea was spiderman. So they said, prove to me you're going to be able to do it for phase one we'll give you $100,000. 75-100,000. And with that, a small company can turn into a lot, a big company, would you just get a meeting. The small company, they have to try to prove feasibility. And if you make whoever the sponsoring agency comfortable enough, they'll actually -- ask you to propose phase two, which is $750,000 to $1 million. That's a two-year program. So in essence you're getting investors in the federal government, but you get to keep the technology. And you can license it, and that then from there do you to phase three, so that's technically productionization, but phase three is somewhat nebulous. You dock whatever you want, and you'll score phase three. We did it a difficult way, we licensed it, we didn't have to get investors, we licensed it to a company. But my company is actually meant to -- we're innovators. We have a core team of engineers that are very, very, very innovative. We put in rocket scientist was monster garage.

Ted Simons: Last question, we have about 30 seconds. When you first worked with the idea, I guess if you got a bunch of innovators no one really thinks your crazy do they, some get that but you don't.
Martin Martinez: They talk themselves out of it.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Martin Martinez: Engineers too.

Ted Simons: So basically it's been all systems go since the first idea came up.

Martin Martinez Yes. We also now have another phase two with navy, where we are developing the aquatic version, which lab boat stopper, slash, swimmer stopper.

Ted Simons: once that works we'll get you on to talk about that. Thanks for joining us.

Martin Martinez:President, Engineering Science Analysis Corporation;

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