By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
It has long been said that necessity is the mother of invention.
What it means is that if there is a problem you just have to solve, you will find a way. The Archer School for Girls InvenTeam is in the process of showing that actions do speak louder than words.
One of only 13 schools nationwide to receive the InvenTeams grant in 2020 from the Lemelson-MIT program, the Archer team is comprised of over 40 middle and upper school students (including several from Pacific Palisades) who are responsible for all aspects of the invention process—from the initial ideation phase to the development of functional prototypes. Students are mentored by Engineering & Design Coordinator Mike Carter and math teacher Eileen Finney.
“Our team has spent almost two years designing a device that addresses the threat of wildfires in our community,” Archer junior and Communications Lead Nina Salomon said. “The invention was inspired by the many fires in LA County over the last few years, which forced our school to evacuate multiple times.”
Salomon explained that 90% of homes that are lost in fires are due to embers that are blown from the original fire and land on rooftops.
“In order to protect homes and buildings, we designed Hydra, a high-tech sprinkler system that sits on rooftops and uses infrared cameras to detect and extinguish approaching embers,” Salomon continued. “Our invention connects to a mobile app, enabling users to get real-time rooftop system status, view official fire updates and forward real-time sensor information to their local fire department.”
Last year, thanks to the $10,000 grant, Archer’s team worked tirelessly to construct Hydra. On March 4, as part of the Lemelson-MIT program, the team hosted its public Mid-Grant technical review.
The Lemelson-MIT Program is designed to inspire youth to create technological inventions that solve problems stemming from their local communities. Winning teams receive grant funding to build their invention. The panel of judges includes MIT educators, researchers, staff and alumni, as well as representatives from industry and former Lemelson-MIT Award winners.
The students have been developing their project since last spring and meet virtually several times a week to collaborate. Even with pandemic-related precautions, the team is able to remotely design parts to manufacture in Archer’s Saban IDEAlab using a laser cutter, 3D printers and CNC milling machines.
Students have already met with local fire officials and continue to reach out to community stakeholders to improve the invention. They will present their final prototype at EurekaFest, the Lemelson-MIT Program’s invention celebration, in June.
“Technology is the future and knowing I can have a hand in helping others in my community motivates me in every meeting and in every piece of work,” said Maia, an Archer InvenTeam freshman who is helping develop the phone app to manage their new device. “There are fires left and right here in California, and our invention can stop them from getting worse. We can stop a problem before it even happens and who knows, that might even save a life.”
For the last five years, Archer’s Integrated Design and Engineering Arts program has encouraged students to apply their research and invention skills to real-world problems through dedicated classes, such as Better Living through Engineering, Product Development and Honors Research, and through extracurricular clubs like the InvenTeam.
In 2015, Archer students received an InvenTeam grant to develop a compact faucet-mounted water meter that would help alleviate Southern California’s long-term drought problem by influencing conservation behavior and encouraging people to use water more responsibly.
“One of the key tenets of Archer’s philosophy is to learn by doing, and as such we encourage our students to take creative risks,” Archer Head of School Elizabeth English said. “The Lemelson-MIT Program’s InvenTeam initiative has been a great way for our community to come together to work toward a shared goal and it is the perfect challenge for our students. We are very grateful for the opportunity to participate in it again.”
In 2019, the Getty fire burned within miles of the Archer campus, forcing it to shut down and inspiring the InvenTeam to create a device to protect houses from fires. As of January 2020, California had faced 7,860 wildfires, resulting in over a quarter of a million acres burned and 732 structures damaged or destroyed.
Examination of the 2018 Woolsey fire, which burned almost 97,000 acres, revealed that embers spread by Santa Ana winds were primarily responsible for the fire damage. Hydra attaches to rooftops and uses both fan nozzles and sprinkler nozzles to ensure the safety of a home from wildfires.
Archer’s team has six committees: Mechanical Engineering, Programming-App, Programming-Motion, Design and CAD, Budgeting and Purchasing, and Communications and Outreach.
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