Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Smart Girls: the amazingly practical high tech portable shelter

Wanna hear an awesomely inspirational story about Latina high school girls using STEM to make the world a better place? Sure you do!

For the last year, the DIY Girls have been working on their idea to help the increasing number of homeless people in their community. In 2016, this team of 12 predominantly Latina girls from San Fernando High School Math/ Science/ Technology Magnet became the only all-female contingent of the 15 teams selected to participate in the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam program, where each group receives a $10,000 grant to use their STEM skills to develop an invention to address a real-world problem.

The girls were concerned about the soaring number of homeless people in the Los Angeles area. In 2016, there was a 36% increase in homelessness in the San Fernando Valley, and they wanted to see if they could use technology to make a difference in the lives of people who were out on the streets. They came up with the ingenious idea of a portable, solar-powered shelter that could be set up quickly, secured from inside, and easily packed up into a backpack when not in use.

In addition to a chance to put into practice the STEM skills they're learning in class, they're also getting valuable hands-on experience in the invention process, working as a team, and promoting their project. The girls have organized themselves into different teams -- a structure team, a materials team, and a solar panel team -- each tasked with a different aspect of the project. As part of their design and feedback process, the girls recently presented their prototype to their school, members of their local MIT chapter, and several of their state representatives, and received resounding praise for its inventiveness.

Their tent is made of durable, insulating material, and features integrated solar panels and a battery pack that can power its various electrical devices including a small fan to provide circulation, a phone charger, white LED lighting, and UV lighting to disinfect and sanitize the tent. The goal is to create something inexpensive to manufacture, easy to distribute, self-cleaning, and portable would improve the lives of displaced people by giving them an alternative to sleeping on the streets. If successful, it's easy to imagine these tents also being used to provide temporary shelter to refugees and immigrants around the world.

Check out DIY Girls to learn more about their team
Check out their GoFundMe page to help them raise funds for a trip to MIT later this year
Watch a local news video featuring the girls

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