By Mike Blackerby
Knoxville News Sentinel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Call it building a better mousetrap.
Knoxville's Michael Robinson took concepts from existing heat-relief devices and made them more practical and cost effective.
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It appears that Robinson, an inventor and reserve firefighter with Rural/Metro Fire Department with an eye on safety, has another hit on his hands.
Robinson's Heatseeker Sideline Rehab Stations are already in demand by area high school football teams looking for heat relief for their players.
"I didn't invent misting, I just came up with a good option," said Robinson.
"If I could save just one person, or one child with these ... ."
The sideline rehab stations are the latest foray by Robinson in the heat-relief business. He originally developed the system to provide relief for firefighters in the field and now has several patents pending.
Robinson donated his first Six Shooter rehab unit to Rural Metro and the Knoxville City Fire Department in January. He also donated his first K-9 rehab station to the Knox County Sheriff's Department.
The firefighting units, which feature a stainless-steel HeatSeeker Rehab Misting nozzle that attaches to any fire service apparatus with water and a pump, have been a huge hit.
"I've sold about 300 units since January," said Robinson.
"They're in fire departments in almost state in the country and four countries overseas."
After developing his unit for firefighters, Robinson saw an opportunity in athletics, where heat can be a killer - especially in August, when high school football players begin fall practice.
"Heat stress brings on heart attacks," said Robinson.
"That's our No. 1 killer of firefighters. Football players have the same problem we do. They have to wear protective gear just like firefighters, which in turn, can build up body temperatures of 104 degrees or above.
Robinson donated his first two sideline stations recently to the Powell High School football team at the start of preseason practice.
"The units, using a garden hose where the water temperature out of the ground is 68 to 70 degrees, have the ability to lower the ambient temperature up to 30 degrees," said Robinson.
"If it's 100 degrees outside, it will be 70 degree in the mist cloud."
The 3- and 5-head nozzle stations are mounted on adjustable tripods. They're connected to a 60 PSI garden hose and don't require an outside power source. They use about 10 gallons of water an hour - much less than a traditional mister.
A 5-nozzle station costs $349 while a 3-nozzle station is $279. Robinson said traditional mister fans and seats run from $700 to $3,000.
Powell players and coaches agree that Robinson's rehab stations are much better than the previous methods of cooling off during a rugged practice.
"It really is (better)," said Panthers safety Cody Jett.
"We used to cool off by just dumping (water from) water bottles on our neck. You can fit 10 people in one mister, and within 30 seconds you feel a lot cooler. It has definitely been a lifesaver this summer."
Powell coach Derek Rang was one of the test subjects when Robinson first demonstrated his sideline stations.
"What's good about this device is it doesn't shoot a whole lot of water out and lets you conserve a lot more water than a traditional mister," said Rang.
"It cools the kids down and it gets their body temperature down. We're all about it - and the kids enjoy it."
Robinson has just started marketing his stations. He said Alcoa recently became the first high school to purchase a station.
"This is a big day for us," he said.
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