Team of UT students launch self-defense device Pocket Punch to improve student safety

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mia Grimes

Looking into their pockets and backpacks, four UT students realized they had nothing to protect themselves with in a dangerous situation.

“We all had pepper spray at the time,” finance senior Danna Tao said. “I had it on my keys. Realistically, in a situation that somebody is trying to attack me, I would probably not really know how to use it unless I’ve tested it out before.” 

A class project in which students had to pitch and create an original business idea brought Tao, finance senior Ashley Raymond, marketing senior Margaret McCallum and marketing senior Meagan Doyle together, and inspired them to fix this problem. With the 2017 campus stabbing still fresh in their minds, the team decided to focus on a product that would improve students’ safety.

They created a multidimensional self-defense device called Pocket Punch that combines four common self-defense tools — knuckles, pepper spray, a flashlight and an alarm. 

“We’re a team of all-female college students, and we all have felt unsafe walking home,” McCallum said. “This spring, I was in Barcelona and unfortunately was attacked on the street. I really felt that if I had my Pocket Punch in that situation, I would have been able to avoid it altogether.”

 

The Pocket Punch is more effective for self-defense because it combines multiple widely-purchased devices and broadens their alarming effect, Tao said.

“We do have safety devices out there right now, but we don’t feel secure enough with them,” Tao said. “If anything, they’re just like a key chain, We wanted to add to it, and it give it that intimidation factor, which is what the knuckles are for.”  

After receiving positive feedback and funding support, the group approached civil engineering senior Sydney Marvin to help design and engineer a product that could sell to the general public.

“This group of McCombs girls approached me and said they needed someone to help them model this product,” Marvin said. “I actually went into the steps of making the real thing and slowly making prototypes.”

The goal was to create a device that can prevent, prepare and protect in a dangerous situation, Marvin said.

“The light is used to survey your surroundings, and the knuckles are a really great intimidation factor,” Marvin said. “Hopefully, if you see someone walking down the street with knuckles in their hands, you won’t want to attack them. The alarm and the pepper spray are for if there is an immediate threat and you need something to scare off an attacker.”

The students have set up a Facebook page and a website, and are hoping to partner with organizations on campus to have this device readily available, Raymond said.

“We’ve made Pocket Punch really affordable so that all students potentially could purchase it,” Raymond said. “We’re going to sell it for $29.99, which we think is a fair price for all of the devices in one.”

The students have received patent-pending status and hope to finalize the patent next year, Raymond said. 

“We have definitely received a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback,” Tao said. “A lot of my friends have been saying they want to be on a waitlist to buy.”