UAE students win Dh24,000 for wildfire fighting system

The winning team’s cash prize can be used towards the next phase of their invention’s development
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: FireOut, a system designed by five engineering students from Heriot-Watt University to control wildfires in regions suffering from recurring outbreaks, has won the 2022 National James Dyson Award.

The students – Tasneem Nawar, Deenah Sabaahat, Eman Rashid, Zahid Rehman and Zahrah Tungekar – identified that areas that typically suffer from bushfires in the dry season, tend to receive a large amount of rainfall in the wet season. This inspired the team to design a system that stores rainwater during the wet season to use it for controlling bushfires in the dry season.

The winning team has received a cash prize of Dh24,000, which can be used towards the next phase of their invention’s development. FireOut, along with runners up YESCOMPST and IoT integrated power shaft health condition monitoring, will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award. The international shortlist will be announced on October 12, and the international winners on November 16.

Heriot-Watt University students win James Dyson Award 2022-1662790623390
The team is comprised of Tasneem Nawar, Deenah Sabaahat, Eman Rashid, Zahid Rehman and Zahrah Tungekar
Image Credit: Supplied

Preventing the problem

Dr. Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi, one of the local judges for the competition, said: “We were fascinated by FireOut invention, and all the judges credited how the students identified a pressing current day problem and designed a potential solution to prevent the problem. We were really impressed that the team focused on sustainability and environmental factors to create a technology that can help extinguish fires in areas that tend to suffer.”

With climate change having worsened catastrophic bushfire conditions globally, scientists expect extreme fire weather will continue to become more frequent and severe without substantial and rapid action.

How it works

FireOut uses a sensor camera that, upon fire detection, alerts a control room which then transmits the location of the wildfire over radio modules aided by antennas. Upon receiving signals, the controllers automatically operate the pump, distributing the collected rainwater from the tower to the sprinklers that project water to bring the fires under control until the first responders arrive. Once brought under control, the pumps can be closed ready for the towers to collect rainwater again.

Existing technologies currently only detect wildfires and wait for first responders to arrive to the scene, which can result in rapid spread of the fire that causes additional loss to land and wildlife.

The Heriot-Watt University team identified that the first responders often have limited water supply which can result in the fire burning for longer until sufficient water supply has been provided to extinguish the fire.

FireOut’s design of a rainwater storage system, sensor cameras and a communication system can allow large quantities of water to be pumped to sprinklers when needed. This results in the extinguishing process starting well before the first responders arrive, saving time, life, and land.

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Urgent action needed

Rashid, one of the student inventors, said: “We were all horrified by the devastating bushfires we have saw in the media over the last few years, particularly in places like Australia. We were shocked by the devastation caused and the number of habitats that are destroyed as a result, which is why we knew urgent action is needed.”

His teammate Rehman added: “Coming up with an idea of this scale and testing it was not easy. Our first hurdle was trying to make all materials used as fire resistant and sustainable as possible. Another challenge we faced was the collection of water and trying to calculate how much store water would be enough for each land mass. Additionally, we wanted everything to be locally sourced and sustainable, so that created an additional challenge with sourcing and cost of materials. We wanted our design to be specific to the location and to respect the local land and people.”

Solving global problems

For the past five years, the James Dyson Award has challenged entrepreneurial undergraduates and recent graduates of engineering and design in the UAE, to “design something that solves a problem”. Purposely broad and open-ended, the brief tasks students to take on big global problems and apply innovative technology to combat them.

Dr Ali Hilal Al Naqbi, a fellow judge of this year’s award, said: “Having innovative global awards in the UAE such as the James Dyson Award is a great starting point for the future talent pool, as it encourages young designers to be entrepreneurial and commercially-minded, whilst giving them a platform to be recognized amongst reputable engineers. This year’s winning design encompassed engineering and innovation at its core, which is why we were so impressed by it.”

Other winners

YESCOMPST – aimed at preventing food waste through a smart app designed to plan and manage grocery shopping through barcode scanning, checking available stock in the fridge, expiration date notifications and customized recommendations on recipes for products about to expire. The second component aims at impact mitigation with a safe indoor portable compost bin that turns food waste into healthy soil.

Inventors: Abdulrahman Alshamsi, Humaid AlYammahi, Mahra Alremeithi, Fatima Almeraikhi and Hamdan Alshehhi.

University: Abu Dhabi Polytechnic

IoT integrated power shaft health condition monitoring – designed for increase safety of modern connected vehicles. Vibrations are picked up by an accelerometer (acceleration sensor) of high accuracy. These vibrations are sent through a data acquisition unit consisting of a DEWE-43 and MyRio devices to convert the analog signals to digital for processing. Signals of the shaft are sent to the Raspberry Pi, which is installed along with devices for computation that is prepared to perform localized decisions when a problem detected. Once the detection reaches the threshold limit, the information will be transferred to the Internet of things (IoT) connected with a ground control centre.

Inventor: Mohamed Adnan Azmie

University: Curtin University