Empowering Communities

King College Prep Students Take Top Prize for Bright Idea

May 29, 2018

When emergency vehicles zip through busy urban intersections, it can startle other drivers. Recognizing this safety hazard, two inventors recently developed a micro-processor solution to help prevent accidents. But these innovators aren’t working in a Silicon Valley lab. They are students from a high school in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood.

Breshayia Kelly and Ashton Mitchell, also known as “Team Lab,” recently took first place in a student competition to develop project prototypes that will benefit their community. They used an open-source electronics platform designed for building digital devices that can sense and control objects in the physical and digital world. Kelly and Mitchell, both King College Prep High School juniors, received a $2,000 prize to be divided between them.

We created an emergency vehicle clearing system that controls the traffic lights automatically for emergency vehicles,” said Kelly.

The duo was one of 12 teams participating in the ComEd Ideathon, which concluded in May with final “Spark Tank” presentations at the ComEd Training Center in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

“Our invention controls the lights using three types of sensors,” Kelly explained. “A microphone will pick up the audio from the siren of an approaching emergency vehicle, and once that is triggered, an RFID will locate the vehicle and then a distance sensor will see how far it is from the intersection. Once it is close enough all the lights at the intersection will turn red, signaling non-emergency vehicles to stop while the emergency vehicles pass through.”

Kelly, who has been in King’s engineering program for three years, said she enjoyed the opportunity the Ideathon provided to develop concepts that have the potential to enhance community life.

The Ideathon is part of ComEd’s Community of the Future in Bronzeville, where the company is collaborating with residents to explore the potential of smart grid and related services and technologies to enhance everyday life. The Ideathon is one of several community programs offered by ComEd that foster development of science, technology, engineering, and math skills among area students.

“I’m interested in studying engineering and law in college, but after the Ideathon I may be leaning a little more toward engineering” said Kelly. “Our whole digital world is being driven by sensor-based technologies. My team partner, Ashton, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to take a concept and with the help of our mentors develop it into a product that has potential to make a positive impact in the community.”

Team “Black Girl Magic” from the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School won a second-place cash award of $1,000 for developing an alert device for the hearing-impaired. A third-place prize of $500 was awarded to “Team E404” from De La Salle Institute. That team developed a smart circuit breaker device that alerts people away from home if appliances lose power and enables the restoration of power through wireless connectivity and a phone app.

Teams participated in workshops over a period of four months and presented their projects to a panel of judges at the ComEd Training Center. Companies participating in the program included Accenture, AECOM, Burns & McDonnell Sargent & Lundy, and Itron, as well as the National Society of Black Engineers.

Learn more about the Ideathon by watching the video above.