THE RESCUE TRAVOIS
A simple solution to a pressing problem.
During the 2011 Somali famine, hundreds of children were left by the roadsides to die when their parents could no longer carry them on the weeks-long treks to refugee centers.
The average African family has four children, and, often, a single parent was the one bringing the children to the refugee center.
A parent can carry a child on her back, a child on her chest maybe, and a child in her arms. When that fourth child became too weak to walk, these parents had to make the awful choice of deciding which child to leave by the roadside to die.
When Alexis read about the decisions these parents had to make, he wondered if there was anything he could do to help prevent this from happening again. His research revealed that rural Africa has a dearth of wheeled transportation.
What was needed was a simple wheeled device that could be towed behind a parent, while still keeping the parent's arms free to hold a child and the parent's back and chest free to hold a child wrapped to them.
Alexis invented the Rescue Travois so children in future famines make it to the refugee centers safely.
COLLAPSIBLE TRAVOIS: REFUGEES
The Rescue Travois can be collapsed, flat-shipped, and air-dropped onto the most-used refugee roads. It can be assembled easily with LEGO-like instructions.
Testing showed that the Rescue Travois could be assembled by middle-school-aged children in about 15 minutes.
Testing also showed that even children find it easy to tow the Rescue Travois. Watch a 65lb 9-year-old girl easily tow two kids whose combined weight is 85 lbs.
The collapsible travois won an all-expense-paid patent application through the ePals-Smithsonian Invent It Challenge in 2013. It also was a national finalist in the 2012 Discovery/3M Young Scientist Challenge and the 2013 Broadcom/Marvel Iron Man 3 Inventor and Innovator Fair.
To learn more about the development of the collapsible travois, watch this short video.
Experts in public health have advised Alexis that the Rescue Travois is needed in rural Africa to help the sick, elderly, and women in delivery distress reach doctors in time. So Alexis designed a simple, inexpensive bamboo Rescue Travois that can be built easily by village carpenters. Bamboo is widely available in Africa.
The bamboo travois also could be helpful to villagers for taking their goods to market, hauling water, and other daily tasks.
The next steps have begun. Alexis is: (1) contacting public health officials in Africa, (2) creating simple instructions for assembly of the bamboo travois, and (3) working with a wheel supplier to provide the wheels to medical clinics for substantially reduced prices.
UPDATE: Thanks to donations, the materials for the first 10 Bamboo Rescue Travois will be provided to medical clinics in Africa free of charge. U.S. company Marathon Industries is donating the wheels, which is the most expensive part. Others are funding the rest.
Alexis is looking for medical clinics in Africa that are in touch with rural villages that could use the Bamboo Travois. Once villagers see how easy it is to make, the Bamboo Travois will spread rapidly across rural Africa. Please contact me at if you know of a clinic that would accept the materials for the travois.