At the Scheck Hillel Community Day School in Miami, Fla., three high school freshmen were recently assigned a capstone project in their STEM class that challenged them to use technology to solve a real-life problem. Esther Benasayag, Albert Wolak and Abraham Woldenberg looked to the headlines for inspiration, and they immediately recognized the issue of the day — school shootings.
According to Everytown, the gun safety organization, there have been 178 school shootings in the U.S. since 2013. While more than a handful have occurred in Florida, the shootings have not been limited to just one state.
In an effort to "save lives," as the students put it, they turned to radio frequency identification technology. Benasayag, Wolak and Woldenberg figured they could somehow use RFID to alert schools to guns that come through their doors. Woldenberg specifically remembered one ski trip he took where RFID chips were used in lift tickets.
"Every time you go on a lift, the RFID knows that you went through and it tells you through an app how many feet you skied by knowing exactly which lifts you went on and how many times," he said. "I was like, 'Hey, you can do a lot of cool things with RFID' — I think that's one of the factors that brought the idea into my head."
The solution was innovative, but the students still faced one large hurdle — their budget. The team was only given $100 to spend, and the RFID systems being considered by the students were upwards of $2,000.
"I told them, 'This may not be feasible,'" said STEM class teacher Charlie Mahoney. "In addition to [the cost], I don't have a background in this sort of technology, so a lot of it was going to be up to them."
However, the team did not give up. After coming across the Portable Technology Solutions website, the students discovered a trial version of RFID software that allowed users to build customized RFID applications. Benasayag, Wolak and Woldenberg contacted the Long Island-based company's CEO Brad Horn to discuss the project.
"I thought what those guys were doing was kind of amazing, especially at their age," said Horn, who supplied them with RFID chips.
PTS Lead Developer Howard Heckman helped the team refine its product, which can now instantly pull up a gun owner's photograph and data if he or she triggers the RFID system. After presenting its project at a statewide conference on April 13, the team has plans to bring it to the political realm.
"We need to publicize it so people say, 'Look, there is the technology' — that, even if we don't introduce it, someone will," Wolak said.