With support from NASA, a group of Cal Poly Pomona students are set to launch a miniature satellite designed to scan and identify wildfires from miles away.
Called Bronco Ember, the miniature satellite can autonomously detect, track and record coordinates and send them to fire agencies before a fire spreads and burns thousands of acres.
The university’s Bronco Space Club is one of three groups and the only university program chosen to advance to the inaugural NASA TechLeap Challengewinning $500,000 during the yearlong competition.
Using an infrared camera, the students developed a cubesa miniature satellite about half the size of a loaf of bread and assembled a special facility to train artificial intelligence to alert if something is burning from afar.
The 3-pound satellite includes a camera and other equipment fit into a small container about the size of “a slim shoebox,” according to a Cal Poly Pomona news release.
After a weather delay this week, Bronco Ember is scheduled to launch in Sioux Falls, South Dakota the week of July 4 in a high-altitude balloon that rises about 18.5 miles above Earth for about eight hours. NASA is sending team members for launch next week.
After launch, the team will travel to various locations and light small fires, waiting for their satellite to send coordinates for any flames it detects, according to the university.
The project is the culmination of months of long nights, regularly navigating courses and overcoming logistical hurdles, said Cal Poly Pomona graduate Cristian Rodriguez, 25.
“This was really a tremendous learning experience for myself, for everyone,” Rodriguez, the project’s principal investigator, said this week by phone. “They (NASA) believed in us, we believed in ourselves, and now we’re looking to fly next week.”
It all started last summer when the student group pitched their idea to NASA as a way to tackle a real-world issue affecting where they live—the growth of wildfires across Southern California.
We asked ourselves ‘what would be nice to do?’ and we were like, ‘we’re in Southern California and there’s a lot of wildfires, so maybe we should build a home fire detection device,'” Rodriguez said, recounting conversations with team members. “That’s when a light bulb went on.”
After advancing to the competition and winning an initial $200,000 in October, the group had just 10 months to demonstrate and complete their satellite for NASA.
Rodriguez, who lived in Northern California, moved to Pomona to work in satellite with other teammates. Rodriguez said 70% of classes were in-person at this time, so some students were still working from home, making it a challenge to navigate everyone’s schedules.
During a test of the Bronco Ember, the team lit a controlled fire on campus and took off on a hill in Diamond Bar. There, the group saw a glowing figure on their camera that resembled a fire a mile away.
“After that, we knew how special this project could be and what it would mean to put it all together,” said Zachary Gaines, 21, who is the project leader.
“Everyone knows someone directly affected by the fires, so by giving students the opportunity to make an impact in their community, the team rallied around that,” he continued.
For Rodriguez, he hopes the project’s use of small satellite technology can help inspire other projects and create more real-world solutions like wildfire identification.
“We hope it’s just the beginning of something bigger,” Rodriguez said. “The sky really is the limit.”
Team Bronco Ember members, including Rodriguez and Gaines, are as follows:
- Control team: Julian Garcia (leader), Enrique Navas and Michael Quach
- Mechanisms: Scott Johnson (lead), Chase Pelliterri (co-lead), Jonathan Camilleri, Nick Shewchuk, Federico Perez and Juan Carlos Macias
- Electronics: Tyler Boardman (lead) and Derek Mata
- Software: Max Wilder Smith (lead), Thang Nguyen (co-lead) and Clayton Clark
- Systems: Katie Ruiz (leader), Ethan Lo, Joshua Cepeda, Tyler Kovacs and Granville Goza
- Integration and testing: Jacqueline Llamas (lead) and Matthew McDougall
Cal Poly Pomona students launch wildfire detection satellite in NASA program – Daily Bulletin Source link Cal Poly Pomona students launch wildfire detection satellite in NASA program – Daily Bulletin