South Orangetown Central School District

On April 6, a team of Tappan Zee High School Computer Science Capstone students competed against teams from across the northeastern United States as part of the national Project Invent Demo Day event.

It’s the first year that TZHS students have participated in the national competition, which is sponsored by the Infosys Pathfinders Institute and challenges teams to take a “human-centered approach to develop physical technology products” to make their communities better, safer and more equitable. In addition to creating original technologies, teams must develop effective pitch presentations and videos for Demo Day live judging.

TZHS Computer Science teacher Karen Connell first discovered the Infosys Pathfinders Institute when doing research for the school’s makerspace and took a professional development course on making for social good in February 2021. She returned for additional training last summer to become an Institute fellow.

The design thinking and invention challenge links student teams with community partners who have requested support through the program. With guidance from Connell and K-12 Instructional Technology Coach Marc Eckert, the TZHS team collaborated with Teaneck Fire Department Chief Jordan Zaretsky.

“We met with Jordan and asked about the challenges firefighters face. He explained that a major issue is doors being left open, which feeds the fire and allows smoke to escape. This happened recently in the Bronx and a lot of death and damage could have been prevented had the door been closed. It could have provided time for people who were asleep to get out,” explained Theo M., a senior.

For their project, Fire Force, the team built a smoke-triggered door closing device using gas/smoke sensors and Arduino Nanos programmed in C++. “The toughest part was establishing a connection over wifi. It’s difficult to do at school with the protected network,” Theo continued. “So we had to test at home.”

As part of their virtual Demo Day presentation, the team answered judges’ questions and discussed how they overcame challenges during project development and ideas for future improvements.

Members of TZHS' Project Invent 2022 team