A team of 42 students from The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles have been working on a solution to a real-life problem: how to prevent wildfires from destroying homes. After two years, they came up with Hydra, an automated sprinkler system that uses infrared technology to detect embers. They received a $10,000 grant from Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams to continue working on the prototype.
“When thinking about our design criteria we really tried to prioritize Hydra’s movement and using water in an efficient way, while also integrating the electronic, mechanical, and design systems,” says high school junior Karen Garcia, “We based our design off of a strobe light, which is just a light that moves 180 degrees vertically and horizontally.”
Mike Carter, the engineering and design coordinator at The Archer School, says students chose to focus on the problem of wildfires because it was familiar to them.
“We had to close because of wildfire twice in the previous two years, including a 4-day closure because of the Getty Fire,” he says. “Many students had to evacuate so it was very relevant to them and that led to their exploration of what could be a way of addressing the problem.”
The Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams program is a multiyear process where they find the problem, get the grant, and get the first prototype developed. “Now the students are working on a provisional patent,” says Carter. “And they have already made connections with the Los Angeles Fire Department to try to do some real world testing with it coming up in the next year as they continue to refine their design and to work on the tracking software.”