Creative teens aim to automatically put out forest fires

NILAI, 24 July 2017:

Every year, three teenagers from Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Kompleks KLIA would dread the haze season – as it triggers asthma attacks, disrupts their schooling and even curtails their movements.

“It is always hazy at our school. The past couple of years were very bad,” Muhammad Najwan Nabil Mohamad Nasir said when met at the Young Innovators Challenge 2017 (YIC2017) Negeri Sembilan state-level championship at University Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM).

“We had to wear a mask to school, we could not go out. It is worse for us because we have asthma,” he added, referring to friends Muhammad Iman Shahbani and Muhammad Firzan Ruzain Firdus.

Therefore, when the 14-year old students were presented an opportunity to create a prototype that could address a problem, they pounced on it and joined the YIC2017 state-level championship.

The team, who called themselves The Modernizers, decided to pursue the nagging, annual problem that each of them faced.

“We did some research which showed that the burning of forests was one of the major contributors to the haze,” Iman said. “So, we decided to create a prototype to automatically put out forest fires.”

The Modernizers’ prototype uses heat sensors to detect high temperatures caused by forest fires, which automatically trigger water sprinklers in the ground to put out the fires.

However, this was not the first idea that the team had pitched to their mentor.

“We wanted to create a technology that would monitor the heart rates of drivers and when it detected that they were falling asleep at the wheel, it would jolt the driver out of their slumber,” Iman said.

The team was responding to another serious national problem of high fatality rates caused by road accidents in Malaysia, where according to the Transport Ministry, a total of 7,152 people died in road accidents last year, an increase of 6.65% from 6,706 deaths recorded in 2015.

“But we could not get accurate readings so with heavy hearts, we had to abandon that idea.”

Iman said the team faced their first real challenge when they were compelled to scrap their initial idea. It proved too much for the team and they were ready to throw in the towel, he said.

“But our teachers and mentor helped us get through the challenge. They told us that in life, we cannot give up when we face a challenge. Instead, we have to work hard to overcome it.

“That really fired us up because we did not want to let them down,” Iman said.

The team worked hard to make their new idea a reality, burning the midnight oil to complete it just in time for the state-level championship. Their determination paid off. Their prototype clinched the Silver prize at the state-level championship.

This is just one of the many personal experiences of participants at the YIC 2017 Negeri Sembilan state-level championship.

Three teams clinched the Gold prize at the championship: SMK Seremban Jaya’s Euphoria Group with a detection system to prevent babies from falling off balconies, SMK Kompleks KLIA’s The Makers with a detection system for accidents on smart lanes and Kolej Tunku Kurshiah’s The Magnificent Macros with an auto-watering system for plants.

Winning teams from the state-level championships will converge for the seven-day Sime Darby Young Innovators Challenge (SDYIC) from 2 to 8 August 2017 and will have the opportunity to meet industry experts, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals and other enthusiasts in the field of innovative technology.

A joint collaboration between Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) and social business start-up, Chumbaka, the YIC 2017 is a nationwide event bringing together universities, the community and members of the technology industry to celebrate the creativity and inventiveness of secondary school students in Malaysia.

The YIC 2017 seeks to develop students’ life skills especially in problem-solving, tenacity and collaboration in solving real-life problems with innovative technology.

With a total of 15 universities and 300 schools involved this year, university students serve as mentors to high school students, enabling them to explore careers in STEM-related areas.

The YIC is endorsed by the Ministry of Education, with strategic partners Malaysia Digital Economic Corporation (MDEC) and 1Malaysia for Youth (iM4u) and is part of the #mydigitalmaker movement.

Under the Community & Health pillar, YSD to date has committed RM114 million towards community-based programmes, initiatives and research efforts targeted at increasing the well-being of disadvantaged people, reducing socio-economic disparities as well as enhancing the welfare of neglected children, senior citizens, vulnerable women, physically challenged individuals and other marginalised groups.

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