U.S. teen wins $50,000 grant for fingerprint-access handgun sensor

September 12, 2014 - 

A young inventor in Boulder, Colorado will receive a $50,000 grant from the Smart Tech Challenges Foundation to continue working on biometric solution to prevent unauthorized individuals from firing a weapon.

Kai Kloepfer, a high school student from Boulder, Colorado, is the first benefactor of the $1 million Smart Tech for Firearms Challenge, which will award grants to a total of 15 innovators “who are working to improve firearm safety by developing personalization features in firearms, locking devices, and ammunition systems,” the foundation said in a release.

Kloepfer, 17, first integrated the fingerprint sensor on a plastic model of a Beretta Px4 for less than $3,000.

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smartgun prototype

Using stored fingerprints, the sensor enables authorized users who are holding a gun to activate the trigger, while those users who are unauthorized will not be able to fire the weapon.

In Kloepfer’s tests, the sensor prototype successfully worked 99.99 percent of the time.

“I’ve been interested in technology for as long as I can remember,” said Kloepfer. “I started thinking about the role technology could play in preventing accidents and death related to firearms. The idea actually came to me in a dream and I have been working since then to make it a reality.”

Kloepfer hopes to use the $50,000 grant to transfer the sensor to a real gun and move toward market-scale production.

The grant is part of the Smart Tech for Firearms Challenge, which is aimed at improving firearm safety by innovating personalization features in firearms, locking devices and ammunition systems.

Last year, Kloepfer ranked in a group of the top 34 out of 7 million high school students at the 2013 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

Watch a video interview with the young inventor here.

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About Stephen Mayhew

Stephen Mayhew is the publisher and co-founder of Biometrics Research Group, Inc.. His experience includes a mix of entrepreneurship, brand development and publishing. Stephen attended Carleton University and lives in Toronto, Canada. Connect with Stephen on LinkindIn.