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Inspiration can come from any place when it comes to innovation. As for 12-year-old Shanya Gill, a life-saving invention was born out of a nearby tragedy. When a fire destroyed a restaurant near her, she wondered what she could have done differently. This challenging event motivated the 6th graders to develop a fire alarm system that operates faster than the average smoke detector. Thanks to her clever invention, she won a national science competition. To get the fire alarm system up and running, Gill used two key components: a thermal imaging camera and a Raspberry Pi computer. "In Python, he coded a Raspberry Pi, and his thermal camera sent images to the Raspberry Pi for analysis," Gill told his Insider. "The purpose of this device is to detect unoccupied fires and send  text messages." 

Unlike traditional smoke detectors, a computer analyses the camera's heat readings and determines whether the heat source is from a person or an animal based on horizontal or vertical movement (such as rising smoke). The device then sends alerts to the owner's mobile phone, no matter where they are. When tested, her invention was 97% accurate at detecting heat sources.

For her excellent invention and skills, Gill was awarded first place in the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovator Challenge (JIC) sponsored by the Society for Science. In addition to his title, this young inventor also received $ 25,000. The prize money will be used to bring her device to market and help those already affected by the fires. "I would love to donate some of it to a charity that will help people whose homes were destroyed in a fire," says the aspiring inventor. “It is possible, and it is possible to  save as many people as possible and rebuild what people need.” 

Young innovators in STEM fields beat out 65,000 middle school students on their way to the top. The key to her victory was not only her device but also the leadership and scientific skills she displayed at the National Science Fair, which was attended by the top 30 finalists. At the end of the competition, she was awarded $10,000 for other student-developed projects as well. These include a cancer-detection smartphone app developed by Keshvee Sekhda and a device created by Adiant Bhavsar that generates electricity from the energy of two separate objects. An eco-friendly fabric for reusable menstrual products created by Elizabeth Olvera.

 “She's got a really interesting device. I mean, it detects fires earlier than smoke detectors,” said Maya Ajmera, president & CEO of the Society for Science. “She not only had a brilliant project but just carried those leadership and collaboration skills and her challenges stood out. We can't wait to see what her journey looks like over the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years.”

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