A 12-year-old San Jose prodigy from Miller Middle School has made significant advances in fire safety technology. She has not only won the esteemed Thermo Fischer Junior Innovator's Challenge, but she has also gained recognition for her ground-breaking fire detection system. This young inventor, Shanya Gill, has not only taken home the top junior scientist award but also a $25,000 prize.
Inspiration struck Shanya in the summer of 2022 when a fire ravaged a restaurant near her home. Fueled by the desire to create a more effective fire detection system, Shanya embarked on a journey that led to the development of a solution faster, more affordable, and reliable than traditional smoke detectors.
Shanya's system involves the integration of an affordable thermal camera with a compact computer. Unlike conventional smoke detectors that rely on significant smoke presence, Shanya's invention identifies potential threats by distinguishing between warm objects in horizontal motion (indicating human presence) and hot, stationary objects (indicating heat sources like an active gas burner). The system can send a text message alert when it detects a heat source without human presence for a continuous 10-minute period, providing an early warning that can significantly reduce response time.
The innovation boasts impressive accuracy, successfully identifying human presence 98% of the time and heat sources 97% of the time. Shanya strategically positioned the detector above the stove but under the stove range, optimizing its sensors for likely fire starting points in a kitchen.
Shanya's victory at the Thermo Fisher JIC, recognized as the nation's premier STEM (Stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) contest for middle schoolers, underscores her brilliance and commitment to improving safety standards. The 30 finalists of the program, considered among the brightest students nationwide, collectively received over $100,000 in awards.
Looking forward, Shanya envisions refining her invention further by integrating it with a smartphone app. This enhancement will allow users to swiftly switch to a camera feed after receiving an alert, providing visual confirmation. Additionally, she plans to incorporate a higher resolution sensor, smarter algorithms, and optimize the design for mass production.
This young innovator's story highlights the power of STEM education and personal passion in addressing global challenges. Shanya Gill's contribution aligns with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9—Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, showcasing the potential of science and technology to create positive change. The Thermo Fischer JIC, reaching 65,000 middle schoolers nationwide, plays a crucial role in inspiring the next generation of bright minds to pursue STEM careers and contribute to a safer, more innovative world.
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