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Southside High School InvenTeam

The Problem

Firefighters have a difficult, challenging job. In the course of their duties, they often suffer from stress or exhaustion carrying heavy equipment up the stairs.

The Proposal

The Southside High School InvenTeam decided to create a motorized load carrier that climbed stairways to help firefighters transport equipment.

The Invention

The team's invention, named the FireSam, consists of tilt and wall-following sensors that assist the remote operator and compensate for limited vision. The robot counts landings so the remote operator knows which floor it has reached. Remote control is maintained through a wireless computer network that uses off-the-shelf hardware.

The Process

First, the students conducted a patent search to ensure that no one else held a patent for the idea. Next, they examined specific electrical and mechanical guidelines to ensure that it would have enough power to climb stairs while carrying one hundred pounds. They used a computer-aided design, CAD, to develop the invention, due to the costs and size that would be required to produce the invention to scale. This technology allowed them to design models and modify if necessary. After much research among walker, tank track, and tri-wheeled climbing mechanisms, the students determined that tri-wheels were optimal to keep the center of mass on the robot low and ensure better stability. They chose to use chains and sprockets to accompany the tri-wheels, because they were cheaper and readily available. They also used the FIRST Robotics Control System after examining other types of programming. They built the prototype models at one-fourth size to test for possible errors. The students used aluminum laminated wood for test experiments. The Southside High School InvenTeam received information and help from local firefighters, and the team also informed the community of its progress on FireSam. Mentors and sponsors from Honeywell and General Electric were critical to the team during its design process.

Next Steps

Though the Southside High School InvenTeam has a working prototype, the team would like to improve the design, because it travels too fast to operate safely. The team has decided to decrease the speed, until they can increase the stability of the load carrier. The anticipated manufacturing cost for FireSam is $5,000. The team expects retailers would sell it at $7,000, which is less than other fire fighting equipment.