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October 8, 2014

Surface Cuts Backpack Weight, Helps Reduce Health Risks

We recently participated in a National School Backpack Awareness Day event at Boston University to help educate students about backpack safety, and show how Surface Pro 3 is the ideal student device, as its design, portability and power enable it to replace multiple devices, reducing the weight students carry to and from class.

Now we’re back to share some highlights from our adventure, and learnings and advice from occupational therapist Karen Jacobs of Boston University and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), who organized the event and has lead the national backpack safety charge since 2000.

At the event, the Boston University Rotaract Club set up shop outside the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and stopped students passing by to weigh their bags. Club members generated excitement and helped entice students to the station by way of the Surface Pro 3 giveaway for participating. They also shared AOTA health tips centered on the fact that a school bag shouldn’t weigh more that 10 percent of a student’s body weight.

Event Crowd

Volunteers weighed a variety of bags from backpacks to purses and briefcases and found a sobering trend that students were lugging around more weight than they should. All told, 83 bags were weighed for a total weight of 940.5 pounds, and an average of 11.3 pounds per bag. The heaviest bag topped 22 pounds and was carried by girl whose bag should have weighed half that much!

Group Photo
Bag Weighing

All students who weighed their bags were entered into a raffle to win a Surface Pro 3 and Type Cover. The majority of students were already familiar with Surface and very excited about the chance to win, which was great to see. Our lucky winner for the on-campus giveaway was Sandy Ngyuen, a sophomore in Boston University’s School of Management.

Sandy Nguyen Sophmore at SMG winner of Microsoft Surface Pro 3

To give the greater U.S. student population a chance to win a Surface Pro 3, we also hosted an online giveaway. It ran for 24 hours and required students to submit photos with their bags, showing what they carry and why they should win using the #LightenMyLoad, #SurfacePro3 and #Contest hashtags.

We had a great response and a lot of fun with this contest. Unfortunately, out of the hundreds of entries, we could only choose one. Zachary Bugay, a student and software developer with a backpack overflowing with an array of devices, notebooks, cords and other gear won the coveted prize. We hope this Surface Pro 3 helps him lighten his load!

Zachary Bugay Social Giveaway Winner

This all seemed like a success to us, but we thought we should find out how this compared to past events and get Karen’s take. So we asked her a few questions.

What surprised you about this year’s event over last year? How has awareness for the issue progressed since you started championing the cause?

Today’s students are more health conscious than those of 10 years ago. Just as we as a culture have a better awareness of the foods and products that we allow in our bodies, students are more aware of the things that can harm them, including overloaded and improperly packed backpacks that may be causing discomfort or pain.

Why is backpack safety so important and what are some key tips to help students reduce the chance of damaging their health?

Backpack safety is important because like so many other decisions that young people make, the impact of those decisions can have a lasting effect on their health. Heavy backpacks worn incorrectly by more than 79 million students across the country are causing permanent pain and damage to shoulder, neck, and arm muscles. For some students, pain caused by heavy loads can last into adulthood. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2013 nearly 22,200 strains, sprains, dislocations, and fractures from backpacks were treated in hospital emergency rooms, physicians’ offices, and clinics.

Luckily, preventing discomfort and pain is simple. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) offers the following tips for keeping kids safe while toting books to and from school:

  • Always select a backpack that is the correct size for your child.
  • Make sure the height of the backpack extends from approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades to waist level, or slightly above the waist.
  • Always wear well-padded shoulder straps on both shoulders so the weight is evenly balanced.
  • Distribute weight evenly. Load heaviest items closest to the child’s back and balance materials so the child can easily stand up straight.
  • Wear the hip belt if the backpack has one, to improve balance and take some strain off sensitive neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Check that the child’s backpack weighs no more than 10% of his or her body weight. If it weighs more, determine what supplies can stay at home or at school each day to lessen the load.
  • If the backpack is still too heavy for the child, consider a book bag on wheels.

How would you determine overall success for raising awareness for this issue? Do you see yourself stopping promoting this cause anytime soon?

As long as children/students are carrying backpacks, we will continue this campaign. Fortunately, technology has moved many textbooks to online clouds and to electronic devices which helps lighten the load for many students. However, electronic devices can also weigh down backpacks.

AOTA’s National School Backpack Awareness Day is also geared toward adults who carry purses and briefcases.

Heavy school bags and associated negative health implications are an important issue. For all the students who trek across college campuses and mobile professionals who trot across the globe with bags in hand, Surface Pro 3 can be a powerful and portable solution to this problem. One that can help you do more, while carrying less.

Brian Seitz

Surface marketing