A year ago, I attended an afterschool academy (QD Academy) in Dallas, Texas to join the Girls Who Code (GWC) club. I am proud to have been a member of the GWC - a club that aims to serve as a “pipeline” for cultivating future female engineers. Every week, I had to come up with my own project ideas. However, unlike previous coding-related projects, the director assigned us to come up with our own method of how to curb environmental pollution and prepare a group presentation that will be presented in front of the representatives from the Bank of America. It was the first and last major presentation of its kind in Girls Who Code club as well as a great opportunity for me to show my potential and thoughts in front of women bankers from Bank of America. So, I decided to explore methods on how to reduce global contaminations.
First of all, our group started by researching major causes of environmental pollution. We found that chemicals, especially plastics, found in trashcans can harm habitats, threaten aquatic life, and interfere with human uses of river, marine and coastal environments, eventually causing a significant number of today’s most serious environmental damages.
After a lot of internal debate, I finally came up with a good idea: The Smart Trashcan. The purpose was to install a sensor on every trashcan that notifies the user whenever the trash exceeds a certain amount. I believed that these sensors would result in not only cleaner trashcans but also possibly reduce environmental damages.
|[A slide from our presentation. Screenshot by Minjung Kwon]|
The other members of my group came up with the qualities that the sensor needed to satisfy. The process was simple. We attached a sensor to the top of the trashcan that can detect the extent of fullness in various ways (motion, vibration, weight, highest point of content inside). When the device detects that the trashcan is full, the sensor sends a message to the user and emits light.
There were several other things we also needed to consider:
1. To notify the user to prevent trashcan overload via message-signal, they need to have: their GPS labeled, working Wi-Fi, and an app for communication.
2. When the battery is low, it needs to be recharged. For the creation of an efficient and durable battery, the battery needs to save radiant energy during the day to be used after sunset. It needs a system that can convert radiant energy into electrical energy. The sensor should also be weather-resistant, waterproof, and rigid with a secure installation.
3. Prior to producing in the markets, we need to choose the light’s color, the brightness, use of multi-indicators, and the minimum size that the trashcan needs to be to retain all of these traits.
|[Presenting in front of the members of BOA. Photo credit: Bhagyashri Chander]|
Finally, it was the day of the presentations in front of 10 female bankers from the Bank of America members. They watched our presentation and assessed our idea based upon a pre-determined rubric. They asked questions that we had to answer on-the-spot. One of the bankers asked a question that swayed my mind:“ The factor that causes any kind of pollution around the world mostly results from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, natural gas, and gasoline. How do you think that prevention from trashcan overload would positively impact the globe at all?” After a long pause to think, I answered, “Trash floats throughout the rivers and oceans, eventually accumulating in size. This debris carries chemical pollutants and threatens wildlife in water and on ground, while also interfering with human uses of the river. The river takes up 0.03% of the hydrosphere, which we use just 2.8% of a very small amount. So, I feel that curbing trashcan overload can positively impact humans in water usage, which seems trivial but is an essential factor of human survival. I don’t know if trashcan overload affects the globe as much as the burning of fossil fuels, but there is no doubt that it can have a tremendous impact on our living environment.”
I was most excited (and relieved!) when one of the bankers told us that our idea is tangible and it would have practical application to the world. She wrote that she was impressed with our “concise idea” that perhaps would “take a tremendous approach towards the issues of global contamination.”
|[Photo with the members of GWC and BOA representatives. Photo credit: Bhagyashri Chander]|
After the presentations, we received 12 out of 15 total points as well as some positive feedbacks. The results were not as good as we expected, but the experience of presenting my thoughts in front of an audience and receiving feedback by the Q&A session were much more valuable to us that the score itself.
Seoul Scholars International
Minjung Kwon firstname.lastname@example.org