St. Vrain Valley Students Discuss Lemelson-MIT Grant Project

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St. Vrain InvenTeam spokespersons (Macie May/Longmont Observer)

Students from Erie and Skyline High Schools teamed up at the Innovation Center to work on several senior projects. One 12 member group, interested in engineering, decided to apply for the Lemelson-MIT Grant to fund their project.

This team is one of 15 across the country designated as an InvenTeam. They have received a $10,000 grant to design a new, cost-effective, portable emergency beacon system to be used by anyone who may find themselves in an emergency situation where cell service and access to 911 or other emergency communication systems are not available.

In addition to the beacon, the team is designing a universal drone attachment that will communicate with the beacon. The attachment will be able to be used by rescue drones as well as citizen drones. This will enable more people to be found in an area, because better coverage will be available.

The challenge is that the drone attachment will require a large battery which most citizen drones won’t be able to carry. The team is focusing their marketing on rescue crews since the rescue drones are generally equipped to handle the heavier load.

The St. Vrain InvenTeam has until April to build a prototype. They are still in the design phase of the project and are not expecting to begin the building phase until January. “We are still figuring out what to buy, we only have $7000 and we don’t want to waste it” said Hogan Warlock, Erie High School Junior, when asked about the timeline of the project.

Team member, Katie Huomder, Erie High Senior, added, “It’s a big project and we are expected to do well. It’s kinda scary that we have to get it done by April, but I think we can do it, we’re a very smart group of individuals.”

They predict that the drone component will be 3-4 inches in size and will have a thermal camera about the size of a GoPro camera attached to it. The beacon is expected to be hand-held, similar in size to a cell phone.

The team has a goal of keeping the beacon inexpensive so that everyone can afford one. The expensive component is the universal drone attachment, however the rescue teams using the drone attachment will experience less labor intensive and time consuming rescues; which is expected to make the drone attachment more cost effective.

Project mentors Kelsey Rasmussen, computer science and engineering teacher from Erie High School, and Scott Duckworth, science teacher from Skyline High School have assisted the InvenTeam by contacting guest speakers and other professionals to help provide further perspective on their project. Two of those professionals include Megan O’Sullivan, Space Vehicle Pilot, and Gary Guysinger, Senior Engineer, top mathmatician and Radio Communications Expert at DigitalGlobe.

The students commented that the professionals’ ideas made them realize the scope of the project was a lot bigger than they originally expected. Despite the magnitude of the project, the InvenTeam is excited to be awarded the means to fund their project. They are looking forward to the challenge this project.