Archer Receives Lemelson-MIT Award for Invention to Protect Homes from Wildfires
Students at The Archer School for Girls have been awarded a grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program to develop an automatic sprinkler system that will protect homes from wildfires by using infrared technology to detect and extinguish approaching embers and any resulting hot spots.
Only 13 schools from across the country received this year's InvenTeams grant from the Lemelson-MIT Program, which inspires youth to create technological inventions that solve problems stemming from their local communities. The winners will receive up to $10,000 in grant funding to build their invention. The panel of judges included MIT educators, researchers, staff, and alumni, as well as representatives from industry and former Lemelson-MIT Award winners, who assembled virtually this fall to select this year's InvenTeam recipients.
More than 4 million acres, the most in recorded history, have burned in California alone this year. Other western states such as Colorado are also experiencing destructive and fatal wildfires. Archer was located in the mandatory evacuation zone for the Getty Fire in 2019, which inspired the school's InvenTeam to target embers with their invention because research has shown that more than 90% of structures lost to wildfire are ignited by embers flying ahead of the main fire lines.
The Archer School for Girls InvenTeam includes over 50 Middle and Upper School students 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.
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.
The Archer School for Girls InvenTeam will develop its invention in the next nine months. Students have already met with local fire officials and are continuing to reach out to community stakeholders to improve the invention. Their working prototype will be showcased at a technical review within the local community in February. They will present their final prototype at EurekaFest, the Lemelson-MIT Program's invention celebration, in June 2021.
"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 A. '24, an InvenTeam member who is helping develop a phone app that will 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 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," 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."
Follow the Archer InvenTeam on Twitter and Instagram.