NFPA continues to work with schools and community groups to raise awareness of the STEM field, and in particular, careers in the fire protection engineering space. Recently Kathleen Almand, NFPA’s vice president of research, was at Auburn Junior High School in Alabama where she witnessed great promise and genuine excitement about science and technology as she judged a school science fair.
Students created projects for the Paradigm Challenge, an annual competition that encourages students to address important social issues in innovative ways. Students were tasked with designing an invention or innovation to help lower the risk of home fires, then either create a physical model or digital rendering of their design. Their creations needed to be easy to operate and affordable to the general public.
“The entries ranged from an app for a fit-bit with alerts from the fire alarm to an app which locates an arc fault circuit interrupter in case of a faulty electrical situation, to an innovative exit lighting concept,” said Almand. “Judges rated the top 6 entries and individually graded all 45 entries. It was a great group of enthusiastic and forward-thinking students, and a pleasure to interact with emerging talent who share NFPA’s goal of eliminating death, injury and loss due to fire and electrical hazards.”
Other inventions showcased at the well-known science fair included a built-in escape ladder that unrolls from the bottom of a windowsill, remote control mini fire trucks, fire-safety systems for the hearing and vision impaired, and compact disposable fire safety suits.
Besides Kathleen, the judging panel included an equipment design engineer from Duracell, an alumni professor of chemical engineering, a field specialist from Underwriters Laboratories, Auburn’s fire chief and a representative from Harrington Group, a fire protection engineering firm.