Two students from the Floyd County College and Career Academy have developed the software and mechanism for a device that could one day be on the front lines of a pandemic such as COVID.

And they did it under a time crunch.

Eli Abdou and Shane O’Neill are two CCA students who were approached by teachers to create a project that would be presented at an upcoming health summit. The catch was, they had about two months to do it.

The students’ teacher, Kevin Van Der Horn, said in October he approached Abdou and O’Neill about presenting a project at the upcoming Annual Business and Education Summit hosted by the Lt. Governor.

“This was a big project to undertake,” said Van Der Horn, a Robotics and Engineering teacher at the College and Career Academy. “At first we thought it wouldn’t be ready by the first week of December. It was a huge undertaking. But the boys worked hard and we helped get them the resources and materials they needed.”

The result is a remarkable device whose necessity is evident immediately. During a pandemic such as the one we’re experiencing, it would be on the front lines of defense against the spread of a virus such as COVID.

Abdou and O’Neill wrote software and created hardware that basically recognizes if someone about to enter a building has a fever or not. The computer activates a mechanism that can unlock a door if the thermal sensor does not detect a fever.

So instead of people monitoring a doorway around the clock and taking temperatures of everyone who walks in the door, the device would make it so that a sensor measures temperatures of anyone wishing to entire a room or building, and either locking or unlocking the door based the detection of a fever or not.

The students worked around the clock to have the project finished in time for the summit.

“We worked on it in our engineering class which is every other day,” said Abdou who just turned 18. “Closer to the summit we put a lot more hours into it to have it ready. I wish we could have had it done at the beginning of the pandemic and then it would have had a greater impact and able to help more people.”

Abdou did say it felt cool to present the project to the Lieutenant Governor and other business leaders. He hopes to pursue a career in the medical field, particularly in biotechnology.

O’Neill, 17, would one day like to be an entrepreneur and said their creation certainly has room for improvements, but he’s proud of the work they did under such a time constraint.

“It was a fun experience for me,” said O’Neill who recently secured a programming internship at Romega Digital. “I’m particularly interested in programming. I like the fact that we created the software that controls the locks and the sensors.”

Van Der Horn is immensely proud of his students and said although the project was created to be presented at the December summit, it was entered in the Georgia Technology Competition and made it through the local level. It’s now headed to regions and in February they’ll find out if it has made it to the state level at the end of March.

“I definitely think this could be something that can be refined in design and mass produced and implemented on a large scale,” he said. “This is the prototype stage. Ideally we could take this concept and the code and have a nice clean design to be manufactured on a much larger scale that could do so much good in the world.”

Van Der Horn noted that one of the keys to his students success is the fact that the CCA’s advisory board, headed by Eric Waters, is constantly searching for ways to improve the students’ opportunities to learn and grow.

“We have students in a number of different pathways,” he said, “from manufacturing to healthcare, robotics, programming, and Eric Waters and the board are always looking at what the students are working on what they need. As a teacher I think it’s great to have a board like that. They seek out involvement from people in the business community, the healthcare community, the manufacturing community who let us know what they’re looking for in the workforce. They let us know about new certifications we should offer. They help us prepare our students to be leaders in industry when they graduate.”

“I’m so proud that high school students did this,” he added. “This project took a wide range of engineering skills including programming, design of the physical components, the electrical and mechanical components. This project demonstrates a wide range of engineering fields all in one device.”

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