Meet the 14-year-old developing fire prevention technology
While most middle schoolers were learning history and grammar, young climate activist Ryan Honary was putting his passion for STEM to work. Living in California, he witnessed the devastating 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed more than 18,000 structures. This led Honary to develop fire detection technology to help prevent forest fire disasters in the future.
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His invention won the grand prize in the 2019 Ignite Innovation Student Challenge. He also created the Wildfire Early Warning Network, for which he was named the 2020 American Red Cross Disaster Services Hero for the county. of Orange.
Related: He Turned a School Bus Into a Tiny Eco-Friendly Home
Now 14, Honary has achieved more in business development, award-winning ideas and climate action than most people on the planet. His invention caught the attention of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, a non-profit, non-activist organization established in 2005 to help preserve and support the natural sites of Irvine Ranch. The organization aims to encourage citizens to connect with the land and facilitates stewardship through landowners in the region.
Using AI to prevent fires and environmental threats
In keeping with these goals, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy invited Honary to conduct a pilot project with its support. The goal is to assess the potential of proprietary AI-driven sensor network technology.
The system will be put to work, testing its ability to prevent fires through the detection, measurement, notification and prediction of a variety of environmental threats. For example, the technology monitors air and water pollution and soil moisture levels. It will be deployed in early 2022, with research continuing throughout the year.
“We were impressed with Ryan’s research and excited about its potential to improve our ability to detect threats and monitor our natural resources, which are critical to our adaptive management approach,” said Dr Nathan. Gregory, Vice President and Director of Programs. from the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.
The emergency detection and response system relies on remote sensors and artificial intelligence to identify fires and predict spread patterns. The low-cost mesh network is easy to deploy and can be placed in remote locations that are otherwise unattended. On-board technology enables communication via an app, to alert scientists and rescuers.
What else did he do?
In addition to her work with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, Honary has won the prestigious Office of Naval Research Naval Science Award. The prize came in the form of a grant, which led to the creation of Honorary’s Sensory AI company. Since the initial win in early 2020, the organization has issued multiple rounds of funding to further develop the technology.
Honary was also recognized as one of the top 30 finalists at the Broadcom Masters. The program, founded and produced by the Society for Science and the Public and the Broadcom Foundation, is the nation’s premier STEM competition for middle school students.
As headlines rage about the costs and losses associated with wildfires, Honary is working to encourage other students to pursue interests in STEM fields of study.
“I believe environmental engineering will be one of the most important fields of my generation, and I hope students will be encouraged to pursue it and given the resources to do so,” Honary said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity to demonstrate my solution in a larger context, together with Dr. Gregory and his team, and hope the results will play a pivotal role in future conservation efforts.”
Serve as an inspiration for other young people
As well as addressing climate change issues, he hopes to inspire other young people who may not have considered STEM opportunities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2030, STEM occupations will grow 10.5%, compared to 7.5% growth for non-STEM occupations. This opens the door to countless careers for candidates with a solid foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Yet a White House study found that only 20% of high school graduates are prepared for college-level coursework in a STEM major. It also found that less than 20% of undergraduates who say they intend to major in a STEM field actually complete a related degree. It is a field of study that is full of potential but lacks candidates. And the problem starts early in the educational process.
The Skyhook Foundation reports that only 33% of eighth graders are interested in STEM majors. It could stem from a lack of inspiration even earlier in elementary school. Research supports the idea that if STEM subjects are not engaging, the vast majority of students lose interest by fifth grade. These data highlight the need to access and emphasize STEM-based education early on.
Luckily for wildlife and the human population, Honary is one of the few to be passionate and inspired by STEM from an early age. When he’s not actively working to save the planet, Honary reports that he loves tennis and teaches the sport to young people with autism. He also enjoys singing and playing guitar, as well as surfing the waves in his hometown of Newport Beach, California.
Images via Ryan Honary