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Shanya Gill

6th Grade, Stratford School – Sunnyvale Raynor Middle School
San Jose, CA

Shanya built a prototype fire-detection system using a wall-mounted thermal camera and can send text alerts when a heat source is left unattended.

Prevention of Casualties and Property Damage Using Thermal Imaging and Software Based Occupancy Detection


Project Background

In the summer of 2022, a fire destroyed a restaurant behind Shanya’s house. “Since then, my mother became increasingly cautious, always asking me to double-check that the kitchen stove was turned off before leaving our house,” she says. One day, Shanya discovered that thermal cameras can detect heat loss in homes during winter months. She wondered if these cameras could also spot house fires more quickly than traditional smoke detectors. “With an early warning system, we could save thousands of lives every year,” Shanya says.

Tactics and Results

For the fire-detection system, Shanya connected an affordable thermal camera to a tiny computer. She programmed it to detect people as warm objects moving horizontally and heat sources, like a turned-on gas burner, as hot objects that remained still. Shanya also programmed the system to send a text message when it detected a heat source but no humans for 10 minutes. The prototype device was then mounted on the kitchen wall. Shanya conducted multiple trials at various times of day and with people entering the camera’s view from different directions. In the end, Shanya’s system accurately detected human presence 98 percent of the time and heat sources 97 percent of the time. It also sent text messages 97 percent of the time when a heat source was left unattended. With more enhancements, Shanya says, this device could surpass traditional smoke detectors in accuracy, affordability and emergency response time.

2023 Thermo Fisher JIC Finalist Shanya Gill

Beyond the Project

“In order to deploy at a large scale, I am doing experiments where the device would be placed on the ceiling like a smoke detector,” Shanya says. There, the device can draw power from existing electric lines and view a wider area.

Other interests

Shanya enjoys swimming, water polo and table tennis. “I thoroughly enjoy engaging in sports, as it has been a passion of mine since a young age,” she says. She also likes crafting, coding and teaching younger kids. In the future, Shanya hopes to become a biomedical engineer. “By combining my love for biology, desire to make a difference and passion for innovation, biomedical engineering is the perfect fit for me,” she says.

2023 Thermo Fisher JIC Finalist Shanya Gill