Lord Botetourt High School juniors Maria Parnell and Ainsley Swartwout take their robotic “Acoustic Fire Extinguisher” to VMI in Lexington on March 25 where they will compete with other high school science students from across the state in the Robotics and Intelligent Machines Category of the to the Virginia Science and Engineering Fair.
Parnell and Swartwout earned the trip to the state competition by taking first place in the 2017 Western Virginia Regional Science and Engineering Fair on March 4 at Hollins University.
The two LBHS students, who also attend the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology, also took first place in the same category earlier this year in the Governor’s School Project Forum.
Four other Botetourt County students who attend the RVGS also had projects that placed in the regional fair.
LBHS senior Emily D’Arpa took second place in the Biomedical Engineering/Embedded Systems Category with her project, “A Device to Monitor Temperature Characteristics of a Wound.”
Gavin Oxley, a sophomore at LBHS, took second place in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Category with his project, “Effect of Polyethylene Oxide Concentration on the Solubility of a Copolymer in Water.”
Amber Alam, an LBHS senior, took third place in the Materials Science/Physics and Astronomy Category with her project “Cordwood and Straw Bale Construction.”
Tara Malloy, a James River High School junior, took third place in the Environmental Engineering Category with her project “Measurement of Thickness of Oil Layer on Water.”
Last year Parnell and Swartwout teamed up to investigate the effect of sound frequency on flame suppression, and this year, they added a robot to their first place project.
Their “Acoustic Fire Extinguisher” uses concentrated sound pressure waves to extinguish fires by displacing the oxygen that sustains the fire. It’s an autonomous robot that can consistently sense flames, navigates toward the flames and extinguish the fire with a subwoofer speaker.
The 4-wheel robot has six ultrasonic PING sensors and a sound amplifying board, along with two lantern batteries to provide power to the board. Two tubes are connected to the speaker to concentrate the sound waves. On top of the speaker are a pan and tilt mechanism to hold the flame sensor board along with four infrared flame sensors.
To control the robot, Parnell and Swartwout programmed three Arduino microprocessors; one to control the pan and tilt and receive input from the flame sensors, another to control the speaker and receive input from the PING sensors, and a third to control the wheels.
The Arduinos communicate with each other through XBee devices that the girls configured to work together to accomplish their goal.
Once a fire activates the flame sensors, the process begins, and the information collected guides the robot to move toward a flame, maneuver around obstacles, control the speaker to extinguish the flame, and then scan for other flames.
Over 100 gifted and talented students from Roanoke City and Roanoke County and the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School competed in the 2017 Western Virginia Regional Science and Engineering Fair.