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Local kids create project that could change the world

Forest Guard takes a test run in Tahoe
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Six kids from Meadow Vista have designed one project that just might change the world. Recently, Sony Europe announced the test launch of the Forest Guard system, which was an idea that originated from members of the Lego Guards team in Meadow Vista. In May 2009, the team traveled to Denmark and won an international competition for their idea on how a combination of cameras and screen savers can help residents in wooded areas keep an eye out for wildfires in the forests surrounding them. Last week, team members and their coach, Heidi Buck, saw the equipment for the first time in a trip up to the Tahoe forest where they met with Dr. Graham Kent of the University of Nevada, Reno. The group met in Tahoe and saw one of the places where the engineers will put one camera and test it throughout the winter. Buck said she enjoyed watching team members realize the impact of one idea. “It was great to see it all put together and to see the look on their faces – they were pretty amazed,” Buck said. Team member Drew Oakes, 11, said he was happy that the vision of the project matched the reality. “It was really cool when I saw it,” Drew said. “It seemed just how I pictured it.” Buck said Sony has already ordered additional cameras to eventually be set up in other parts of the Tahoe forest. Those cameras will then feed live images to computer users. The images can be a screensaver and when someone notices smoke, they can alert local emergency personnel. In a press release, Sony said it will release its designs and software into the public for others working in the field of fire safety to review and possibly use. “I was blown away to think that in the years to come we’ll be walking around and seeing these cameras that was an idea started with this team,” Buck said. Team member Bobby Huckins, 13, said he felt like the team’s hard work “definitely” paid off. “It’s just a really amazing thing that six kids from Meadow Vista can come up with this camera system and actually have it implemented,” Bobby said. “It’s really cool.” Faith Oakes, 14, said she feels privileged to have the opportunity to travel to Denmark with the team and to be part of a project that has grown bigger than them. “It’s great to be able to affect people everywhere and help them face this kind of common enemy,” Faith said. Faith added that working on the project has inspired her to share her excitement about science. “It has inspired me to learn more about science and technology and teach other young people about science and get them interested,” Faith said. Buck said she’s happy to see the team’s idea fulfill the original competition’s goal of helping the planet and others. She said often times she’s asked how much money the team receives from the project. Buck said there is no money involved. She said one of the important rules the team follows is to share what they learn. “What you learn is more important than what you win,” Buck said. “Here it’s actually happening and the ideas are being let out into the world.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- Did you know? The six team members of the Meadow Vista Lego Guard’s teams are being filmed by Sony for an upcoming documentary. The documentary chronicles the team’s success from winning a state competition for their science project Forest Guard to taking over an international competition in Denmark in May. Recently the team saw the first working model of their idea come to life in the Tahoe National Forest. ----------