Middle school student wins National Science Fair for fire detection system

Middle school student wins National Science Fair for fire detection system

Shania Gill won $25,000 for her fire detector.
Courtesy of the Science Association

  • Shania Gill, 12, won a national science competition for her fire detection device.
  • The device works faster than a regular smoke detector with a thermal camera.
  • Jill said she hopes to use the $25,000 prize to bring her device to market.

Last year, sixth-grader Shania Gill and her family were shocked when they heard that a restaurant behind their house had burned to the ground.

“It was really emotional for my family because it was something we’d never experienced before,” Jill told Insider.

This inspired her to create a fire detection device that can identify fires faster than a regular smoke detector and send a text message to users alerting them that a fire has occurred.

Now she hopes to bring the device to market after judges at the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge awarded her first prize out of 65,000 middle school students.

Thermal imaging generation fire detector is used instead of smoke detection

Gail’s device uses two main components: a thermal camera and a Raspberry Pi, a small single-board computer.

“I coded the Raspberry Pi using Python, and the thermal camera gives images to the Raspberry Pi to analyze,” Gill said. “The main purpose of the device is to detect an unattended fire and send you a text message.”

The computer distinguishes between thermal readings that move horizontally – such as a person or animal – and thermal readings that move vertically, such as smoke rising.

“She has a really interesting device. I mean, it detects fires earlier than smoke detectors,” said Maya Ajmera, president and CEO of the Science Association, the competition’s organizing partner.

The Jill device consists of two main components: a thermal camera and a small computer.
Courtesy of the Science Association

Gill said she plans to use the money to take her detector to market, and any remaining money will go to charities that help people affected by the fires.

“I definitely want to put some of it into some charities that help people whose homes have been destroyed by fires, because that’s actually my whole goal with this project: for this invention to reach as many people as possible and also save as many people as possible,” he said. Jill: “People as much as possible and rebuild the things that people need.”

Competition officials say Jill stood out thanks to her innovative project, collaborative spirit and leadership skills

The competition initially involved 65,000 middle school students and competed at the regional level. Of these students approx. About 6,000 people were nominated to move on to the national competition, and usually about 2,000 people apply to compete, according to Ajmera.

After several rounds of judging, the groups were narrowed down to 30 of the top finalists who will attend the National Science Fair.

This means that Jill and her fellow finalists were among the top 0.04% of students who competed.

Ajmera told Insider that the 30 finalists were judged on two factors: the projects themselves and a series of surprise challenges they completed in pre-selected teams.

“Throughout the challenges and throughout the competition, what we understand is that she demonstrated leadership and collaboration, demonstrated tact and critical thinking skills,” Ajmera told Insider.

Practicing experts judged the students in STEM, Ajmera said.

“Not only did she have a great project, but she brought her leadership and collaboration skills and the challenges she faced stood out,” Ajmera said. “We can’t wait to see what her journey will look like over the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years.”

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