Eighth Grader Wins International Technology Challenge

April 22, 2020

To coincide with the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the micro:bit Educational Foundation today announced the 2020 winners of its Do Your :Bit Challenge. Chosen from competitors from around the globe, Belmont Day School eighth grade student Lynn Lewis was awarded the top honor in North America.

The London-based foundation collaborates with educators to inspire and enable students to engage in the digital world in creative ways. The organization’s Global Goals curriculum challenged students to devise a technology-based solution to address an environmental issue. Lynn chose to focus on combating deforestation by creating a device to notify park rangers of illegal foresting via posts to Twitter. The use of social media would also help to raise public awareness of the issue in real time.

Lynn developed and programmed her device as part of the BDS Global Goals arts elective, taught by innovation teacher Kurt Robinson. The device incorporates a gator:microphone, a camera, and a Raspberry:Pi. It is housed in a clear 3D-printed case that could be mounted in various places in a forest. It is programmed to detect loud noise such as that from a chainsaw or heavy machinery. On detecting a loud noise, the camera would take a photo, and immediately post it via a public account on Twitter. Park rangers could then investigate for illegal foresting in the area based on the photo. Lewis said she was drawn to the project by personal experience.

“Deforestation is important because of the effect it has on wildlife in the forests. This was important to me because, over the summer, my camp counselor told us about the palm oil crisis, where orangutans are endangered because big companies are cutting down rainforests to harvest palm oil,” she said, adding that the project itself was challenging and took nearly four months to complete. “It was challenging to incorporate a lot of different ideas to make it work—such as adding the camera to show that the loud noises were not coming from animals, and using the posts to Twitter to spread awareness.”

Mr. Robinson said he was proud of Lynn’s creativity and effort, and feels her classmates really supported each other as they developed ideas throughout the class.

“I’m very happy for Lynn and everybody in the class,” Mr. Robison said. “They all pushed each other and although only Lynn won it was also a win for the class. My class was the first intensive (four days a week instead of the two) and it meant they couldn’t take another art during that trimester. It was big ask but they all stepped up.”

Read about all the winning entries on the micro:bit website.

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