Shanya Gill, a 12-year-old wins $25,000 Top Award at the Inaugural Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge


Shanya built a prototype fire-detection system using a wall-mounted thermal camera and can send text alerts when a heat source is left unattended.

Our Bureau

Washington, DC

Thermo Fisher Scientific and Society for Science recently announced the winners of the Thermo Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge (Thermo Fisher JIC), the nation’s premier middle school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) competition. Shanya Gill, 12, from San Jose, California; won the $25,000 Thermo Fisher Scientific ASCEND (Aspiring Scientists Cultivating Exciting New Discoveries) Award, the top prize in the competition.

In the summer of 2022, a fire destroyed a restaurant behind Shanya’s house. That incident inspired her to create a fire-detection system that involved connecting an affordable thermal camera to a compact computer. She then programmed the system to differentiate between people–which were identified as warm objects moving horizontally–and heat sources, such as an active gas burner, which were identified as hot objects that remained stationary.

Shanya then programmed the system to send a text message when it detected a heat source but no human presence for a continuous 10-minute period. Shanya’s system accurately detected human presence 98% of the time and heat sources 97% of the time, as per the release.

As per the release, the Thermo Fisher JIC, a program of Society for Science, reaches 65,000 middle schoolers nationwide and inspires them to follow their personal STEM passions to exciting college and career paths. The 30 finalists are counted among the nation’s brightest students, with several, including Shanya, collectively accepting more than $100,000 at the award ceremony at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Thermo Fisher JIC winners were chosen from the 30 finalists, who were selected from nearly 2,000 applicants from 49 states, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top