A US-based Indian-origin middle school girl has just won $25,000 (Rs 21 lakh) for inventing a fire-detection device that works faster than the average smoke detector.
12-year-old Shanya Gill from San Jose, California, won the Thermo Fisher Scientific ASCEND (Aspiring Scientists Cultivating Exciting New Discoveries) Award, the top prize in the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge competition in which 65,000 middle schoolers participated.
According to the Society for Science, in the summer of 2022, a fire destroyed a restaurant behind Shanya’s house.
“Since then, my mother has become increasingly cautious, always asking me to double-check that the kitchen stove is turned off before leaving our house,” Shanya said.
One day, Shanya discovered that thermal cameras can detect heat loss in homes during the winter months. She wondered if these cameras could also spot house fires more quickly than traditional smoke detectors.
That incident inspired her to create a fire-detection system that involved connecting an affordable thermal camera to a compact computer. She then programmed the system to differentiate between people-which were identified as warm objects moving horizontally-and heat sources, such as an active gas burner, which were identified as hot objects that remained stationary.
“With an early warning system, we could save thousands of lives every year,” Shanya said.
Shanya then programmed the system to send a text message when it detected 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.