Each year, the Kidz in Motion Conference recognizes individuals who dedicate themselves to keeping children safe in vehicles.  This year, our very own CPSDarren was nominated and recognized as a CPS Hero.  Besides being a SafetyBeltSafe USA board member and coordinator of his local Safe Kids (no small feats indeed), we know him best as the founder of www.Car-Seat.org, our favorite car seat and vehicle safety question forum where we can hang out and discuss all things car seat.  Please bear with me as I wax nostalgic for a moment.  Back when c-s.org (as we affectionately know it) started in 2001, we had the occasional question here and there.  I noticed the questions tended toward the technical side rather than the fluff side and there were many more posts by men.  Made me wonder where Darren was advertising the site, lol!  In the past few years, membership has grown phenomenally and we no longer are just about car seats and vehicles (and the vast majority of questions and participants are women!).  We have a strollers forum, an area for swapping items, an off-topic area–the fun and community abounds.  And that’s what we love–the community.

So thanks, Darren, for giving us a community.  Thanks for giving volunteer techs a place to go where they can prove they are every bit as valuable and professional as their paid counterparts.  Thanks for giving us a place to earn our CEUs with interesting chats when our local resources don’t have anything available.  Thanks for giving us an outlet to practice our communication skills.  Thanks for giving parents a place to go to ask questions.  I remember being that parent 8 years ago who had questions and nowhere to go.  Who knows how many thousands of parents have been helped or how many kids’ lives have been changed because of the help they’ve received at Car-Seat.org?

Now, to switch gears back to the last day of KIM.  The Evenflo representative did a totally cool, totally awesome (dude!) presentation of what makes up a car seat.  This is truly what every car seat geek drools over!  He went over the different types of plastic that make up the different components in the seats, but focused on what Evenflo uses, obviously, since he can’t speak for the other manufacturers.  He started his presentation with a brief history of car seats and grouped the seats by decade.  One Kantwet from 1963 hooked over the vehicle seat and had a steering wheel to keep the child busy :D

The main type of plastic that the car seat shell is made of is PP, or Polypropylene.  It’s used in the seat, bases, covers, and large components.  It’s a very tough and he explained that it’s also somewhat flexible to withstand some beating (as we all know car seats take from time to time).  Why not add some carbon fill or some other super tough material to it to make it even stronger?  Well, it might make it stronger, but it would also make it more brittle and we don’t want brittle car seats.

Handles, levers, and adjustment knobs are made of ABS, or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (say that with a mouthful of crackers–I dare you).  It’s more expensive than PP and stiffer, but brittle.  It has a deep color and nice finish.  The soft rubbery stuff that usually is on handles to make them more comfortable for carrying is called TPO, or Thermo Plastic Olefin.

The rep also talked about the different foam types.  There’s urethane foam.  I missed if he said it’s the memory foam or the plain comfort foam.  It’s an open cell structure, is very soft, and deforms under a very light load.  It does absorb energy and is often integrated into the seat pad.

EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) foam has a closed cell structure and is basically styrofoam.  It’s a good shock absorber–think about how many VCRs (am I showing my age?), CD players, and DVD machines it’s protected, not to mention a Coca-Cola or two.  It’s energy absorbent and deforms under load.  It’s not durable, lol.

EPE (Expanded Polyethylene) foam has a closed cell structure.  It absorbs energy and deforms under load, just like EPS foam.  It also looks like EPS foam, though the cells look slightly larger.  You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between EPE and EPS, IMO, unless they were labeled.  EPE has some rebound to it and is more durable than EPS.

EPP (Expanded Polypropylene) foam also has a closed cell structure.  It is also energy absorbent, like the others, and deforms under load, but is very durable.  The rep passed samples around of all three types of foam (yes, we got to touch and feel and compare them!!!), and I wonder why EPS is still around.  EPP *bends*.  It’s not obvious when it’s in the car seat, but when the pieces are side by side, you can see its obvious energy absorbing properties.  When you press your thumb into a piece of EPS foam, you leave a thumb print, but you don’t with the EPP.  I can see that its “bounciness” could lead to other problems if the energy isn’t being dissipated right away.

We also looked at crash-tested car seats to see what kind of damage is done to belt paths (did I not tell you this session was a true car seat geek’s dream?!).  Dark colored seats, like black gray, or dark blue, don’t show stress marks as much as taupe or silver seats.  When looking at stress marks, it’s important to look and see where they are to determine if they are truly from a crash or from the molding process.  They could be from intersections of ribs, the ejector pin locations from where the seat was pushed out of the injector mold, or they could be from a crash.  If in doubt, err on the side of caution and don’t use the seat.  Always call the manufacturer since they know the product best and can give you the best guidance on whether or not it’s safe to use.

So KIM is over and it’s a long 8.5 months until the next conference comes along.  Nashville–here we come!