SOMERSET, Wis. (WCCO) -- A teenager in western Wisconsin has built a device that could save lives if a shooter ever targets his school.
Justin Rivard is a senior at Somerset High School and came up with the idea after noticing a potential flaw in his school's emergency response plan.
In a room with all the makings of a metals class, Justin loses himself in his "sanctuary of steel."
"I'm a very hands-on person. I like to put my ideas down," he said.
He then shapes, cuts, and fuses those ideas using saws and torches into a creation all his own.
"I can't even remember how much stuff I've made in here," Justin said.
Funny considering his latest project is unforgettable.
"A lot of times when we're teaching welding you can just put two pieces of metal together," said Eric Olson, Justin's tech and engineering teacher at Somerset High School. "But what we we're hoping for is to look at ability to be able to solve a problem."
Justin found that problem during active shooter training at the school.
"The main problem was all these, all these kids in a building who have nothing but a door to keep them safe," he said.
In his homeroom class Justin and his classmates used a heavy table to barricade the door, which has a lock.
But if an intruder somehow disabled it the lock, the door was easily pushed open with the table sliding backwards along the tile floor.
"That's where I thought, 'You know what this is something that I need to go after.' This was something that was kind of made for me to do," Justin said.
He put on his thinking cap, which also doubles as a welding mask, and got to work.
"Justin has a motor that just doesn't stop," Olson said of his student's relentless work ethic. He remembers how Justin struggled in the beginning but never gave up.
"It was kind of hard at first but once I kind of got onto one part, then it was like OK that makes sense," Rivard said.
It starts with two steel plates cut to a specific shape. Handles are welded to them, then a rod and tube are welded on to connect the end plates. Finally a locking knob is added. The finished product is lightweight with heavyweight resistance. It's named JustinKase.
"This is the thing that can save thousands of lives if it's used properly," Justin said while holding his creation.
The plates slide under the door, then extend outwards. They fit around the door jams like a puzzle piece.
When someone attempts to push open the door, the door pushes against the rod which then pushes down on the plates. Because the plates are locked into the door jams, they prevent the door from being opened even with immense pressure.
"Once I made the prototype I took it to every classroom and I asked teachers you know, 'What do you think about it, do you think that this is a good idea,'" Justin said.
"I think it's a game changer," Principal Shannon Donnelly said.
She believes that so much she encouraged Justin to pursue a patent on his invention, which he received.
Then she helped him pitch the importance of the device to the school board, landing him his first sale.
"I wouldn't be pushing this hard for people to really take a look at this kind of a device if I didn't think that it had a major piece in what we're doing in terms of safety and security," she said.
During his summer off in 2017, Justin built enough devices for every classroom and conference room in the high school. A steel fabrication company in East Farmington cuts the steel plates for him, then he assembles the rest of it.
Just about every classroom or meeting room in the school has a JustinKase. They're usually found right next to the door or at least within arm's reach.
"Thankfully I haven't had to use it at this point in anything other than a drill but every staff knows exactly where these are located," Donnelly said after grabbing the device that was under her desk.
She's also thankful of the young man who made the extra layer of safety possible for her school.
"The fact that we have a student within our district that was able to create something of this, what I believe of this magnitude, I think is pretty special," she said.
The device retails for $95, but to the young welding-enthusiast turned entrepreneur the safety of students and staff is priceless.
"What kind of insurance are you gonna get for a student's life? This is the insurance right here," he said proudly holding his invention.
Justin is in the process of building 50 more JustinKase devices for Somerset Middle School. The Grantsburg School District also ordered 100.
For more information about JustinKase, click here or contact Somerset High School
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