An Indian American student from Georgia won the Lemelson Early Inventor Award for the second straight year for inventing devices that detect indoor air quality.
Om Guin, a seventh grader at Fulton Science Academy Private School in the city of Alpharetta, developed a system that could potentially save people’s lungs, particularly those suffering from asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Guin was reportedly driven to discover what causes and worsens lung diseases as several members of his family have asthma and would check pollen counts before leaving the house.
“It was very intriguing to me that something invisible and small like particulate matter could be the cause of so much suffering,” Guin said. “I wanted to find a way to mitigate these effects before the pollutants in the air trigger suffering in people with lung disease.”
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
Pollen and other particulate matter (PM) present in the air are known to aggravate lung diseases. PM, which can be solids and/or liquid particles, can come from nature (dust storms, forest and grassland fires, vegetation, volcanic ash and sea spray) and human activities (vehicle emissions, power plants, wood burning and industrial processes).
When Guin discovered through research that air inside people’s homes can also contain similar or worse PM levels compared to the air outside, he decided to look for solutions to detect and improve indoor air for his loved ones.
The system, which Guin has aptly dubbed the “Lungsaver,” involved a pair of indoor and outdoor devices that measure and record the air’s PM content up to 0.3 microns in size at different intervals using a forced-air, laser-based sensor.
Guin connected a Raspberry Pi Zero to the sensor’s interface and wrote a Python script that activates the sensor every five minutes and records the data in a file. He programmed both indoor and outdoor devices to exchange sensor data via Wi-Fi.
The young inventor successfully demonstrated to the Lemelson Foundation’s judging committee how the indoor device informs inhabitants on how to improve air quality via a speaker, which advises them to open the windows or turn on the air conditioning.
Meanwhile, the solar-powered outdoor device is splash-proof and can continuously run for several months.
Guin’s Lungsaver was tested over several months, with the inventor repeatedly checking and comparing the accuracy of the two sensors’ readings. With the collected data, Guin was able to establish at a 95 percent confidence level that both measurements from the indoor and outdoor devices had significant differences.
The Lemelson Foundation, which awards the Lemelson Early Inventor Award to outstanding young inventors each year, gave Guin the prize for his invention in August. He also received the same prize last year for creating a voice-enabled smart pillbox.
“I was excited to know that even I can be an inventor,” Guin was quoted as saying. “Last year’s prize inspired me to continue looking for problems that I can solve. All it takes is a deep look at an everyday problem and some thinking.”
The Lemelson Early Inventor Prize is a three-year commitment by the foundation it launched in 2019 to award $100 to an outstanding inventor in 270 of the Society Affiliate Fairs with middle school participants around the country.
According to the foundation, the award aims to “highlight young inventors whose projects exemplify the ideals of inventive thinking by identifying a challenge in their community and creating a solution that will improve the lives of others.”