When it comes to innovation, inspiration can come from anywhere. For 12-year-old Shanya Gill, innovation for a life-saving invention came from a nearby tragedy. When a fire burned down a nearby restaurant, she wondered what could have gone differently. This difficult event then motivated the sixth-grader to design a fire detection system that works faster than the average smoke detector. Now, her clever invention has earned her the top spot in a national science competition.
To bring her fire detection system to life, Gill used two key components: a thermal camera and a Raspberry Pi computer. “I coded the Raspberry Pi with Python and the thermal camera gives images to the Raspberry Pi to analyze,” Gill told Insider. “The whole purpose of the device is to detect an unattended fire and send a text message to you.”
Unlike common smoke detectors, the computer analyzes the thermal readings from the camera, determining if a heat source comes from a person or an animal by whether it moves horizontally or vertically (like smoke rising). The device then sends an alert to the owner's phone, wherever they may be. After putting it to the test, her invention had 97% accuracy in detecting heat sources.
Gill was awarded first place at the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge (JIC), organized by Society for Science. On top of the title, the young inventor also received $25,000, which she hopes to use to take her device to the market, as well as supporting those who have already been affected by a fire. “I definitely want to put some in some charities that help people that may have gotten their homes destroyed by fires,” the budding inventor shares, “because that's really just my whole purpose of this project: for this invention to reach as many people as possible and to also save as many people as possible and rebuild the things that people need.”
On her way to the top spot, the young innovator beat 65,000 middle schoolers in STEM. The key to the win was not only her device, but also the leadership and science skills she displayed during a national science fair, which featured the top 30 finalists. At the end of the competition, other projects also developed by students, were awarded $10,000. These include a smartphone app to detect cancer, designed by Keshvee Sekhda; a device that generates electricity from energy of two objects when they are separated, built by Adyant Bhavsar; and an eco-friendly fabric for reusable menstrual products, created by Elizabeth Olvera.
As for Gill, her future looks promising, and those who have seen her work in action can't wait to see what's next for her. “She's got a really interesting device. I mean, it detects fires earlier than smoke detectors,” said Maya Ajmera, president & CEO of the Society for Science. “She not only had a brilliant project but just carried those leadership and collaboration skills and her challenges and stood out. We can't wait to see what her journey looks like over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”
12-year-old Shanya Gill designed a fire detection system that works faster than the average smoke detector.
To bring her fire detection system to life, Gill used two key components: a thermal camera and a Raspberry Pi computer, which sends an alert to the owner's smartphone.
Gill was awarded the first place title and prize of $25,000 at the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge (JIC), and hopes to use her winnings to take her design to the market.
All images via Society for Science.