san fernando

‘Achieve Anything': DIYgirls Make and Create Technology for Their Community

A group of girls from San Fernando High School are using their innovation to invent robots that help people in their community.

The students designed a robot and a pollutant detector to improve indoor air quality in residents’ homes, and they are in the process of seeking a patent for both of their inventions.

"We saw that indoor air quality was something that wasn’t catching much attention," said America Hernandez, a senior team leader. “But also something that contained a lot of pollutants and affected our health, since we spend most of our time indoors."

The girls from San Fernando, who call themselves the InvenTeam, are part of DIYgirls, an organization that offers after school programs and mentorship for young women in technology and engineering.

At an end of the year showcase, the young inventors presented the Air Duct Vacuum Robot (ADVR) and the Pollutant Filter Detector 2018 (PFD2).

The Air Duct Vacuum Robot has four wheels and is small enough to fit inside air vents. As the robot is in motion, three pipe cleaners rotate to clean dust and debris inside the air vents. Sensors allow the robot to know when to turn or when it is reaching a dead end.

The Pollutant Filter Detector 2018 is an enhanced device of carbon monoxide detectors. Instead of just detecting carbon monoxide, the device also detects Formaldehyde and Natural Gas. The device connects to an app that alerts users when there are high levels of a gas inside their home. Then with the app, users can trigger the device to start filtering the air.

Hernandez says the biggest challenge was narrowing down all their ideas to these two projects.

"At first it was hard because we had a lot of ideas that we thought would have a great outcome," Hernandez said. "However, we decided to go into two projects that can help solve the problem more effectively." 

Their goal is to make the robot and detector accessible for low-income families who may not be able to afford to have their air vents professionally cleaned.

"They’re targeting their community which is of low socio-economic background, so they’re looking at homes that they might live in," said Cristina Gutierrez, director of programs at DIYgirls.

The girls say their community inspires their inventions.

"Before I was in DIYgirls I wasn’t really involved in my community," said Paola Valtierra, a senior team leader. "But afterwards I realized I’m a part of this community, I might as well do something to make it better."

Last year, the InvenTeam tackled homelessness by creating solar-powered tents whose UV lights kill bacteria and charge electrical devices. The invention garnered media attention and the support of their school and the city of San Fernando.

"It’s not just the engineering side of it, it’s the activism side of what we’re doing that really touched me," Valtierra said.

DIYgirls has created a pathway for its members to enter STEM fields. Hernandez said that the club inspired her to major in civil engineering.

"We’re letting these girls know that they can achieve anything that they set their minds to, and that success is at a hand’s reach," Gutierrez said.

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