Sensors in School
By journalist Shanoor Seervai
Students and parents design sensor systems to solve problems at a weekend NuVu Studio
We have all forgotten to turn the lights off when we leave a room. We know it’s bad for the environment,
but often make the mistake anyway. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if the lights could turn themselves off?
Motion sensors have made this possible -- some lights are built to detect movement and automatically
switch off if a room remains still for too long.
Simple solutions that use cutting-edge technology have repeatedly solved what appear
to be unsolvable problems. On November 10 and 17, 2013, middle and high school
students and parents at the American School of Bombay had the opportunity to use
sensor systems and find solutions to problems in the classroom, laboratories and public
spaces of their school. In partnership with NuVu Studio, ASB encourages students to
work on multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects, using the creative process to solve
big, open-ended problems.
At the beginning of a three-hour session, five parent-student teams brainstormed to identify glitches in a
system at school. One student observed that it would be easier to open lockers with a hand sensor than
the current physical locks. Another pointed out that a lot of time gets wasted in the classroom if a student
asks the teacher to change the temperature of the air-conditioner. Trash in common areas and overcrowding at the entrances were other problems students brainstormed.
There are plenty of real world sensor systems that are effective, from sensors on taps in restrooms, to
escalators that are activated when someone steps on it, said Saba Ghole, Chief Creative Officer of NuVu
Studio, who led the session. “Sensors are essentially about making something work better. They can deal
with energy or make life easier because of their functionality. They can be playful, in the case of a dress
with an in-built sound sensor in the belt to make it light up. They can reveal hidden information or be
health-related, for example, a sensor could measure humidity levels to track and control the spread of
flu,” said Ms. Ghole.
After selecting one problem from the initial list of ideas,
each parent-student team got to work designing a
solution that incorporated a sensor. To monitor trash
in common areas, Henry; a sixth grade student,
designed a Roomba, a vacuum-cleaning robot that
would track the level of cleanliness on each floor and
report it to the administrator. The Roomba would
sweep each common area four times a day, and classify
it as green (clean), yellow (acceptable) or red (dirty)
through a sensor system. The daily reports would be
used to identify weekly and monthly trends and take
concrete steps to prevent common rooms from
entering the red zone. “Most people leave trash in the
common area by accident, or because they forget to clean up. But even if they’re having fun, they should
take the responsibility to clean up themselves,” said Henry.
A child and parent putting their ideas together
using a hot glue gun