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Teen Works with Sunnyvale DPS to Make Hazmat Situations Safer for Emergency Personnel

A Sunnyvale high school student isn’t letting her age stop her from trying to make the world a safer place. Aryia Dattamajumdar recently won the prestigious Davidson Fellowship for developing an early warning, artificial intelligence powered, portable system designed to survey areas impacted by natural disaster.

“Basically, my project was a search and rescue system and its main goal was to help firefighters and other first responders in hazmat situations,” said Dattamajumdar. “Instead of having a search and rescue person going in there, you would have this system analyzing. That person’s sitting back at the base station seeing what’s happening. They would be making the decisions [as] this robot goes in there.”

The Fremont High School senior came up with the idea after experiencing a mini disaster of her own.

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“I used to live in New York…I came back from a vacation to India and my house was completely flooded and the ceilings were broken. This was the basement where I had my science lab, all my textbooks, photo albums,” said Dattamajumdar. “I [thought] how can a normal person like me get in there.”

For two years, Dattamajumdar developed and honed her project. During that time, she moved from her parents’ basement in New York, to a garage in her parents’ home in the Bay Area. That’s when she witnessed the widespread danger and damage a fire like the 2018 Paradise Fire could cause.

It prompted her to connect with Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety to improve her system even further.

“I went down to the Sunnyvale Fire Department and asked them what do they need. What is something I can do to tailor my system to what they want?” said Dattamajumdar. “What I found, is they wanted something that was early warning. Based on that, I started adjusting my system and added some new sensors. I added thermal for hidden objects; the gas sensor for high concentrations of gas in smoky environments.”

In August, her project helped her win the Davidson Fellowship and a $10,000 scholarship. It also helped her parents feel better about surrendering their garage to her projects.

“I don’t think they were too happy at first because they can’t park their cars in there anymore,” said Dattamajumdar with a laugh. “I’ve taken a portion of the garage and it’s completely set up with computers, electronic gadgets. It’s kind of mess, but that’s how every person gets their ideas. I’m best at midnight working my projects.”

Dattamajumdar won’t say what college she’d like to go to next fall because she doesn’t want to jinx it, but she knows what she wants to study.

“I think it’d be really cool if I could study electrical engineering, finance, but also global policy, public policy and get that aspect in,” said Dattamajumdar. “You want to get a global sense of what’s going on in the world and the world’s issues and the whole point of engineering is what’s happening in the world. How can I solve that and what are the technologies that I can use?”

Until she decides, she continues expanding her repertoire of skills. She’s self-published two books on Amazon, including one on electrical engineering for kids.

“I had all this stuff set up in my basement in New York, my garage in California. [My younger sister would] always come in there…She’d take things apart,” said Dattamajumdar. “I’d have to rebuild everything and she’d ask what’s going on? Based on that, I was like, you know maybe I should write an electronics reference guide to guide kids.”

She has also written a cookbook based on Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book she read over the summer for AP Environmental Science.

Twenty years down the road, who knows what she’ll accomplish.

“I aspire to be the CTO of the nation. I want to remain in the field of technology,” said Dattamajumdar. “Entrepreneurship and technology and maybe leading the country in technology.”

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