A 12-Year-Old’s Innovation in Fire Detection
A 12-year-old girl from Miller Middle School in San Jose, Shanya Gill, has made a significant breakthrough in fire detection technology. Her invention, which won her $25,000 in the Thermo Fischer Junior Innovator’s Challenge, is a fire detection system that is faster, cheaper, and more reliable than traditional smoke detectors.
Shanya’s inspiration came from a fire that destroyed a restaurant near her house in the summer of 2022. She noticed that smoke detectors require a significant amount of smoke to trigger, which can sometimes mean a fire has already started and gotten out of control.
Shanya’s system uses an affordable thermal camera connected to a compact computer. She programmed her system to differentiate between people, identified as warm objects moving horizontally, and heat sources, such as an active gas burner, identified as hot objects that remained stationary. The system sends a text message when it detects a heat source but no human presence for a continuous 10-minute period. Shanya’s system accurately detected human presence 98% of the time and heat sources 97% of the time.
Shanya plans to refine the device by combining it with a smartphone app that will allow users to quickly switch over to a camera after receiving a text message so they can see if the alert is correct. She also plans to incorporate a higher resolution sensor, smarter algorithms, and design the product for mass production.
This young innovator’s work is a testament to the power of STEM education and the potential of young minds to create solutions for real-world problems.