‘That’s what’s great about this field, that there’s always something new.’
While many people watch Netflix in their living rooms, Jonathan Green is building a bushfire-detecting drone in the same amount of space. A year 11 student at Bialik College, Jonathan applied for a grant from Boroondara Youth Foundation last year in order to buy materials for his developing prototypes.
Although Jonathan has always been intrigued by drones and computer vision, it was during a science competition that he first pondered real world applications. He wanted ‘an altruistic cause, something that would unite my passions and something that was more socially relevant’, he says. While a small drone could be programmed to recognize blue tuna cans in a green field, a much larger and more sophisticated drone could potentially recognize the smoke from an impending disaster. An autonomous drone using computer vision technology would be able to recognize fires in rural areas before they begin to spread and could potentially save lives.
‘Currently it’s all theoretical, but I’m hoping this will be applicable into the future’, Jonathan states. The explanation behind computer vision is deceptively simple. Hundreds of square kilometers of bush is a difficult terrain to code for, and transitioning to a fixed wing model has occupied Jonathan with significant labor. Just a week ago, he has finished one of the wings to a prototype, and after he graduates he plans on continuing his work.
‘The BYF grant has given me a test platform, so I can test more real-world applications.’
Through his Boroondara Youth Foundation grant of $1500, Jonathan has been brought one step closer to making his dream a reality. The funding has been essential in contributing material parts to a time-intensive process, one which will culminate in youth empowered change. He has developed technical skills in coding and engineering, and has conducted significant research into both the scientific and human experience of Australian bushfires. The depth of his project grows with him.
Aside from Boroondara Youth Foundation in making his research possible, Jonathan also credits the support of the Boroondara community – his teacher at Bialik College, Caitlin Faiman, his father who has inspired him as an engineer, and Kyle, a mentor from Swinburne University’s Tinkerer’s Guild. Caitlin states that ‘Jonathan has always been hungry. This project was a build-on from a previous thing which was a build-on from a previous thing’.
The entire process from applying for the grant to receiving the results took Jonathan about three weeks in total. He was was ‘overjoyed’ to find his application accepted.
‘Hearing about Boroondara Youth Foundation was serendipitous’, he says, ‘I’m really glad I did it.’