When his sister began college in a “sketchy area,” Sam Mansen wanted to find a way for her to stay safe on and off campus.
“I was looking for a safety device for her to use,” said Mansen, founder of Robocopp. “I was on Amazon browsing, and the only device I saw was pepper spray.”
It was at that point that he came up with Robocopp, a personal alarm system described on the website as a “sound grenade,” since, after a pin is removed, it emits an alarm to startle and scare away potential attackers.
According to Mansen, this is what separates Robocopp from other products, like pepper spray, within the self-defense market.
“I want to clarify, I don’t necessarily think it’s more effective for everyone,” he said. “But you need to be professionally trained to use pepper spray, and most consumers that I talked to do not want to sit there and engage in battle with the assailant.
“For most consumers, they’ve never used pepper spray and they don’t want to do — they want to get help.”
Mansen had seen personal alarms before, but compared them to a Rubik’s Cube in size.
“We found the personal alarm system was left uninnovated for a long time,” he said. “It was not very realistic.”
Mansen developed Robocopp to be much smaller and to be able to be clipped onto a keychain for ease of use. After he gave it to his sister, her friends began asking about it.
“When I started this a year ago, I thought that everyone knew what a personal alarm was; I didn’t even think it would turn into a company,” he said. “That was the most significant insight that I’ve had.”
Michael O’Hara, a detective at the Troy Police Department and a certified Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) instructor, weighed in on Robocopp in the terms of self-defense.
“It does fall into the category of a self-defense device that is similar to a whistle,” he said. “With this in mind, just like we teach in R.A.D., the person activating the device needs to be prepared in case the aggressor attempts to silence it and lashes out quickly to do so.”
O’Hara was also wary of the volume of the device. At “the most compact that 120 decibels gets,” according to Mansen, the sound grenade can be likened to a jackhammer or a rock concert.
“The loudness of the device could become a factor when trying to verbalize and call out for assistance,” O’Hara said. “It can also be mistaken for some other type of alarm like a building or possible car alarm, so I would not rely solely on the device to grab people’s attention because most people today do not seem to react to an alarm in this fashion.”
He does not dismiss the idea of employing Robocopp, though.
“So with all this in mind, from a R.A.D. instructor view and from a law enforcement viewpoint, I am not saying that this device should never be used,” O’Hara said. “I am saying that the key factor is this device is just a tool in the toolbox that can be used as part of your plan to defend yourself.”
Troy students had mixed reviews on the perceived benefits and drawbacks of using Robocopp.
“I think it’s a good idea, especially if it’ll bring to someone’s attention that something is going on,” said Carla Falker, a senior psychology major from Goshen. “I would totally use it if it would get someone to come help me — it would be a good investment on a college campus.”
She mentioned that remembering to pull the pin might be difficult while trying to fend off an attack.
“If no one’s around you, how is it really effective?” asked Shannon Nisi, a freshman risk management insurance major from Orlando, Florida. “I think it would be just one more thing on your keyring taking up space.”
“Acoustics, I think, are one of the most underused things that we have,” Mansen said, noting the use of sound grenades and other devices in military and law enforcement settings.
Mansen also mentions other benefits of Robocopp besides campus safety, saying that the company received an email from an elderly man praising the device.
“He had a stroke and laid in a ditch for a few hours until this dog came up and started sniffing until people started wondering why this dog was doing this,” Mansen said.
The man wrote that, “next time this happens, a dog won’t have to find me.”
Robocopp is currently available for $23.99 with free shipping from www.robocopp.com, where more information about the product can be found.