CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A group of 14-year-old Providence Day students in Charlotte is a step away from earning national recognition for its efforts in stopping the spread of wildfires.
The Charger Fire team is one of five groups selected nationwide that will compete for the eCybermission science and technology honor in Washington next month.
Nandita Balaji can still remember the smoke-covered skies over Charlotte in November from wildfires to the west in the mountains.
"There was smoke from the mountains on our campus, and we were told to limit time outdoors and be careful walking between classes," Balaji said.
Nandita and three other students at Providence Day developed a forest fire detection box because they were amazed at how far those thick, dangerous plumes could travel.
The instruments, which are packed inside fire-proof insulation, will monitor the current conditions in a forest and provide critical information to firefighters.
"Do we need to send our fire suppression team to a certain location?" Aixi Zhou said. “What is the density of the smoke? Do we need to evacuate?”
"With this code, it detects any flame,” student Shreyas Bhasin said. “It can easily transmit the data."
The device takes the information, crunches numbers and forms a conclusion.
The students hope to put the boxes on the top of trees and also underground.
They can detect the temperature, the humidity and even the smoke in the area, and they can send that data right to a phone.
"When you click on the map, it will take you to an image on the map where it shows a fire is currently located," student Zoe Sherman said.
The vital information can also be plugged into computer models that try to simulate where the smoke will go.
The models can be more accurate with more boxes.
"We can get closer to the fire; we can allow it to get burnt," Shreyas Bhasin said.
The project won both state and regional competitions.
They head to Washington in June and will find out if they won by the end of the month.
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