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Students Offer Innovative Solutions to Mitigate Wildfires

Published February 26, 2019

Students Offer Innovative Solutions to Mitigate Wildfires
Isabelle RobertsonDunedin, New Zealand

Isabelle Robertson
Dunedin, New Zealand

Matthew FriedmanChappaqua, New York

Matthew Friedman
Chappaqua, New York

Cindy LiuAlberta, Canada

Cindy Liu
Alberta, Canada

Md Bayezid HossainDhaka, Bangladesh

Md Bayezid Hossain
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Lauren TruteMelbourne, Australia

Lauren Trute
Melbourne, Australia

Last year, California experienced the deadliest wildfire on record. And wildfires appear to be on the rise, particularly in the Western United States. In response to this growing problem, students in The Junior Academy participated in a challenge-based project focused on tracking, preventing, and containing wildfires. Working in teams with peers from across the globe, the students arrived at a number of innovative solutions to better mitigate and manage wildfires.

Working with STEM professionals able to help them assess the feasibility of their ideas, the teams hypothesized, tested, and fine-tuned their projects over several weeks. While they haven't yet developed prototypes, the students' ideas, from across 25 international teams, offer meaningful insights into how society can address wildfires in the future.

Fire-resistant Homes

The winning team, which included Cindy Liu, 16, from Alberta, Canada; Isabelle Robertson, 18, from Dunedin, New Zealand; Md Bayezid Hossain, 17, from Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lauren Trute, 16, from Melbourne, Australia; and Matthew Friedman, 16, from Chappaqua, New York, identified two major issues to tackle: the devastation of houses being lost and the inability of firefighters to contain the flames without power. With those problems as their guide, they worked to design a house comprised largely of fire-resistant materials. For the walls, they used a calcium calcite board, a metal alloy frame, Rockwool insulation, wall sarking, fiber cement stucco, and fire-resistant paint, each of which add another layer of protection against flames. For the roof, they used galvanized steel roofing, roof sarking, type x gypsum roof sheeting, Rockwool insulation, and a metal alloy frame.

On top of the roof, they added solar panels that could be used to send electricity to the grid to power water pumping stations for firefighters.

An App for Monitoring Fires

While the winning team worked to address fires that have already spread, the team comprised of Raghav Kesari, 18, from Mysore, India; Lara Louise Bevan-Shiraz, 14, from Denpasar, Indonesia; Joshua Rosenberg, 17, from Toronto, Ontario; Shivani Gollapudi, 16, from Frisco, Texas, focused on prevention. They developed a versatile app combining drone mapping with data analysis to detect wildfires early on and provide guidance to both firefighters and communities on how to best manage them.

Infrared cameras on drones could monitor high-risk areas and detect fires within seconds. The drones could then send real-time data to a display located in firefighters' helmets, on fire engines, or on mobile phones.

Fire Tracking Citizens

A third group also landed on an app as a useful tool. Archi Parekh, 17, from Iselin, New Jersey; Anagha Honnali, 17, from Mysore, India; Aimee Lin, 17, from Auckland, New Zealand; Angelina Kharchenko, 17, from Sumy, Ukraine; Johan Jeson, 16, from Dubai, United Arab Emirates; John Chew, 17, from Quezon City, Philippines, created an app that will allow forest rangers as well as ordinary citizens to report wildfire risks such as fallen powers lines, overgrowth of vegetation near power lines and transformers.

Collecting and analyzing this crowd-sourced data, then combining it with data from weather forecasts, historical data, and power line locations would allow governments to take get ahead of wildfires by resolving the issues before they contribute to a blaze.

Use Data to Track and Prevent

A fourth team, Arunima Sen, 17, from Bangalore, India; Kesava Kirupa Dinakaran, 19, from Chennai, India; Rishabh Java, 16, from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; Margaret Gates, 15 , from Wantagh, New York; Vikram Mishra, 16, from Bangalore, India; Abdallah Sabah, 17, from Cairo, Egypt, devised a machine learning model that incorporated drone-based data collection to generate a detailed map of high-risk areas.

The team envisioned rods containing infrared cameras being placed in remote areas so they could capture 360-degree images to incorporate into their map. The rods, along with drones, could additionally be equipped to release a chemical suppressant to assist in containing fire outbreaks.

By combining out of the box thinking with advice from STEM experts, the ideas these teams came up with could very well be something we see being developed in the future.

Would you like to help students like these work to develop solutions to some of the big challenges our society faces? Become a mentor today.