In 2017, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined five other federal agencies on a mission to improve air sensor monitoring technologies that measure pollutants contained within the smoke that fills the sky during wildfires. The EPA worked again with InnoCentive to design a challenge that would be presented to our diverse network of over 400,000 global Solvers.
We are pleased to announce that six InnoCentive Solvers were honored by the EPA, with four of those Solvers receiving awards for their prototypes.
The Winners Have Been Announced
The first place award of $35,000 was given to Jason Gu and Bryan Tomko of SenSevere/Sensit Technologies, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Second place ($25,000) was awarded to Scott Waller and Andrew Smallridge of Thingy LLC, located in Bellevue, Washington.
Javier Fernandez and Miguel Escribano Hierro of Kunak Technologies®, located in Pamplona, Spain, were also named as honorable mentions for their contributions.
About the Challenge
The challenge, which was originally posted in April of 2017, asked solvers to build a multi-node measurement system capable of rapid deployment and continuous real-time monitoring of highly dynamic air pollution levels during a fire event, including PM2.5, CO, O3, and CO2, in order to provide smoke exposure information to those in close proximity to fires and further downwind.
The prototype needed to be able to take accurate readings and be lightweight for quick deployment as well as easy for first responders to operate.
In total, more than 352 active Solvers from 50 countries took the challenge, and the EPA presented the winners at the Air Sensors International Conference in Oakland, California.
Read the whole challenge at the InnoCentive Challenge Center.
The Winning Solution
The winners of the challenge implemented new technologies in their solution, which included miniaturized direct-reading sensors, compact microprocessors, and wireless data communications, to create their smoke measuring prototype.
After submission, the prototype was tested using a rigorous, two-phase laboratory testing conducted by the EPA and the US Forest Service (USFS).
The Harmful Effects of Smoke Inhalation
Smoke from these wildfires presents a significant health risk for nearby residents. The negative effects of prolonged inhalation of air pollutants caused by wildfires include eye, nose and throat irritation, persistent coughing and wheezing, difficulty breathing, and heart and lung disease.
InnoCentive was proud and honored to be selected to help the EPA design and conduct this challenge, bringing forward meaningful solutions from our Solvers. Air quality and public health are just two of the pressing environmental issues the US faces, and we look forward to partnering with the EPA and other federal organizations to solve their innovation issues using our Challenge Drive Innovation platform.