The 'smart schoolbag' that will remind your kids to pack their lunch

It is hoped the new technology will help reduce back strain.
It is hoped the new technology will help reduce back strain.  Photo: Simon Fox

Heavy school bags may soon be a thing of the past after a team of Australian researchers designed technology to alert kids on what to pack each day based on their school timetable.

Health professionals welcomed the new technology saying they hoped it would help reduce back strain.

Designed by Deakin School of Engineering researchers the "smart schoolbag" will change the way kids pack their school bags.

Parents can check the contents of their child's bag on a mobile app.
Parents can check the contents of their child's bag on a mobile app.  Photo: Simon Fox

The bag comes with built-in technology that works to notify a child what to pack based on the daily school timetable, including books, lunch and sports gear. By knowing what is required for each day, it will help ensure the bag is no heavier than it needs to be.

Researcher Dr Hamid Abdi said the new technology would help lighten the weight kids are expected to carry on their back to-and-from school.

"We wanted to minimise the weight of the bag to reduce the discomfort children experience carrying a heavy load on their backs and shoulders," he said.

"With a smart schoolbag, children won't need to leave everything in their bag every day.

"The system helps them pack only what is needed that day and not worry about forgetting something the next day."

The smart schoolbag would also help take the stress out of packing school bags each day.

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"We know packing the school bag each morning can be difficult, especially for younger kids, because the timetable changes daily and each day they need to pack different things," Dr Abdi said.

"A mobile application developed in this project lets parents see the items in the bag and automatically checks them off against the timetable, identifying what is missing and notifies parents if anything else needs to be packed."

The team is now on the hunt for commercial partners. If production proceeds, the smart schoolbag, including the smart phone application, is expected to retail for between $125 and $150.

Melbourne Osteohealth practice principal Dr Della Buttigieg welcomed the invention of the smart schoolbag.

"It's an amazing integration of technology," Dr Buttigieg said.

"This will not only help limit excess loads on kids' backs, but also help keep them on track academically, making sure the have everything they need - no more sitting out PE because they forgot their sports gear or their swimmers.

"It'll also be a load off for mums and dads trying to get kids ready and out the door each morning."

She said while the technology would help reduce the heaviness of school bags, there were a few other factors to also take into account, including the size of the child, the overall health of the child and the distance they had to travel each day.

"As a general rule, we all adapt to load and strain and kids are no different so, active kids who are fit and strong will naturally cope better than those that aren't meeting their daily activity requirements," she said.

"We probably ought to be mindful of how far they carry the load each day also because that really determines how much work they do and what sort of impact fatigue might have."

Osteopathy Australia member Laura Walsh said an interactive school bag that encouraged things to be left at home was a positive application of technology.

"My hope would be that it teaches good habits early, so that students then understand the impact of overloading unnecessarily," Ms Walsh said.

"What I see with heavy school bags is a need for kids to lean forward to counterbalance the weight on their back.

"This can lead to strain through the neck due to the head being in a forward position, over-activating the muscles across the top of the shoulders, and rounding the shoulders forwards to keep the backpack straps in place across the chest."

It's advised kids be mindful of the way they carry their bag, but to also ensure it's packed correctly.

"Having a lightweight, well-fitted, ergonomic bag with the straps at the correct length and worn over both shoulders is a good starting point," she said.

"Packing heavy items at the rear of the bag, closest to the spine, minimises the physical force required to stand tall and straight with the back pack on.

"Then it comes down to leaving what isn't necessary that day at home, just as the smart schoolbag suggests, and utilising lockers and cubby holes in class to store items that don't need to move back-and-forth between home and school."