An industrious group of year six students from the Kempsey Adventist School brought home first prize from the state final of the Young ICT Explorers Competition at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) on Sunday.
It was an exceptional result for the team of six students, including Bodhi, Brayden, Nicholas, Adam, Amelia and Vasilis, who edged out many of the Sydney sandstone schools including Knox Grammar, Pymble Ladies College and Loretto Kirribilli.
The team pitched their idea magnificently and they impressed the judges with their well-considered and creative solution to a real world problem. Their appropriately titled Trail Blazer project involves utilising a drone fitted with an ultrasonic sensor, GPS Module and camera to inspect fire trails and ensure they are clear of obstacles such as fallen trees. The ultrasonic sensor is programmed to register distance and report those results, essentially giving the drone depth perception.
The students also collaborated with UTS to explore the idea of using an EEG (electroencephalography) machine, which maps the electrical activity of the brain, to enable the efficient analysis of a large volume of data, and shortlist the pictures that require closer examination.
Belinda Devine from the Rural Fire Service (RFS) assisted the young innovators and steered the requirements of the project, which is particularly relevant to the Macleay Valley, given the 350 fires locally per year, including a fire in 2016 that came within 1km of the school, burnt 4700 hectares and lasted for seven days. There is also more than 1600km of fire trails in our local area, which RFS crews in 4WD vehicles painstakingly check once a year. In a bushfire situation, clear fire trails are imperative because they prevent bushfires crossing to the other side, and allow firefighters access to back burn and fight the fire.
It was the inclusion of the EEG analysis that delivered the victory, with the fact the students worked closely with the RFS also seen as a key factor.
An extremely proud primary deputy principal Vanessa Baywood said the program encourages students to think outside the box and to be inspired. “Projects such as these provide students the opportunity to learn and apply new skills by solving real world problems,” Mrs Baywood said. The national final is expected to take place in early December.