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WORK OF '13 ALUM COULD PREVENT GUN TRAGEDIES LIKE NEWTOWN

By JENNA DANIEL/VN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
On February 21, 2017

Patrick Pawlowski has been working to make guns safer since graduating in 2013.

This spring, following much national fanfare, the product he played a key role in developing – Identilock – will hit the market.

A biometric trigger lock, Identilock aims to prevent accidental shootings and to keep unwanted persons from firing a weapon.

Gun owners register allowed fingerprints into the Identilock system. The trigger lock will only release when one of those fingerprints is recognized – a process that takes approximately 300 milliseconds, about the time for a human to blink an eye.

Pawlowski is product developer in partnership with Omer Kiyani, founder and CEO of Sentinl.

Kiyani has been an advocate for gun safety since he was shot in the cheek at 16 by an unknown gunman while in a car with friends, according to The Washington Post. He had the idea for a biometric trigger lock and decided that he had to produce it after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting, in which gunman Adam Lanza stole his mother’s legally owned guns and used them to kill her and 26 others.

Together, Kiyani and Pawlowski have worked for nearly three years to develop and prepare the product for consumer use.

Identilock will be marketed as an alternative to gun safes.

Typical gun safes are large and non-portable, where as the Identilock product is smaller and provides quick and easy access with the fingerprint scanner.

Identilock has already received national media attention, even winning a $100,000 award from the Innovation Fund at Macomb Community College, powered by JPMorgan Chase, according to Business Wire.

As product developer, Pawlowski was highly involved through every step of Identilock’s development.

“I’ve been with the product from initial concept to prototype, all the way to production,” Pawlowski said. “A lot of the core things that I learned in my entrepreneurial courses (at Detroit Mercy) are a lot of the skills that I launched my career off of.”

Pawlowski was interested in entrepreneurial engineering as an undergraduate. 

He worked with a fellow classmate, Wesley Steen, on a senior class project to create the Soup Spoon, an eating utensil made for people whose hands shook too much for them to eat soup without making a mess.

The spoon was a success initially, picking up media attention and grants, but eventually ran out of funding.

Pawlowski and Steen were forced to move on, which led Pawlowski to join the Idenitlock team.

In the wake of the Soup Spoon project, Pawlowski was reluctant to join another start-up company.

“All of my peers from UDM had established themselves at large automotive companies, in positions similar to ones that Wes (Steen) and I turned down in order to pursue our venture,” Pawlowski said. “I couldn't help but think about where I could've been had I taken a job right out of school and if the last few years were a waste of time. I was financially broke and exhausted form the Soup Spoon, and the idea of joining another start-up was terrifying.”

However, Kiyani’s passion for Identilock and his desire for Pawlowski’s skills and drive convinced Pawlowski to join the Sentinl team.

Pawlowski’s lifelong exposure to guns and gun safety also impacted his decision.

He self-identifies as an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and has handled firearms since a young age. His father taught him the importance of gun safety. 

When Kiyani approached him about helping build Identilock, one of his main talking points was the idea that guns have a negative reputation among many Americans. Kiyani wanted to change that, and Pawlowski agreed.

“Omer's goal was and still is to not only prevent gun-related incidents and to provide another gun safety option, but it was to break the stigma that guns are bad,” Pawlowski said. “This is a mission that I was ready to jump on board with and strongly backed.

“Teen suicide was another factor that struck an emotional note with me,” he added. “I saw this as an opportunity to prevent tragedies around the nation.”

The gun safety industry was also more appealing to Pawlowski since, as a gun owner, it directly affects him. He could easily understand the issue at hand and work to make the product appealing to people like him.

Identilock and other systems like it have gained some criticism.

Derick Casier, a senior in the five-year intelligence analysis program and a gun owner, said he is not typically fond of biometric scanners as the primary means of protection.

“If today you scan your print and it reads perfect and tomorrow you do something such work with mortar or wash many dishes and it changes your print pattern, (the scanner) no longer reads your print,” Casier said.

He has used several kinds of fingerprint-access locks, but does not think they are reliable enough.

“Until they can get this resolved, I only recommend combination or keyed,” Casier said.

Of course, Identilock is not yet on the market, and Pawlowski is confident in its accountability.

With Identilock having gained national attention and being readied for sale, Pawlowski is reflecting on his time at the university. He attributes much of his success to the skills he gained while on the McNichols campus.

“I have always been a very hands-on learner and a solution-driven person,” he said. “Engineering students (at Detroit Mercy) are exposed to a variety of opportunities, and the curriculum does a great job helping students develop what I would call their ‘engineering personalities’ so that when they graduate they have some sort of identity and experience to start their careers.”

Pawlowski’s biggest mentors at Detroit Mercy were professors Darrell Kleinke and Nassif Rayess in the College of Engineering & Science. Rayess and Kleinke pushed Pawlowski to produce and patent his ideas, as well as guided him in his studies.

“(Pawlowski) always looked at design work in terms of creating economic and societal value,” said Rayess. “He always was able to articulate his ideas in terms of the economic value that will befall his stakeholders. He exemplified what we have come to term as an entrepreneurially minded engineer.”

Pawlowski’s education inspired him to try to create solutions to everyday issues.

“The engineering program put more of a focus on innovation and did a great job introducing different problem-solving techniques,” Pawlowski added. “Inside and outside of school, I started to recognize fundamental problems in daily life and opportunities of innovation and advancement of technology to solve these problems.”

Pawlowski is proud of his work with Identilock and is looking forward to its sales debut this spring. Anticipated retail price for the system is $239. (More information can be found at getidentilock.com.)

“Not only have I developed as an engineer, but I have learned to work efficiently on multidisciplinary teams and manage multiple projects ranging from concept validation to commercialization,” Pawlowski said. “This experience has been tremendous for me, and I really owe it to those influencers who sparked my entrepreneurial itch and encouraged me to follow my passion for innovation.”

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