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Pittsburgh, Pa. group wins contest for developing air quality monitors in Wildland Fire Sensors Challenge

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Roy Seneca (

WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 13, 2018) –Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its federal partners announced that a Pittsburgh-based group has taken first place in the Wildland Fire Sensors Challenge, a competition that encourages the development of innovative monitoring technologies to measure air pollutants from smoke during wildland fires.

“Today’s winners are developing cutting-edge air quality monitoring systems designed to make air measurements during wildfires easier,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These compact air sensors have the potential to enhance existing regional air monitoring networks and improve the air quality data provided to communities impacted by smoke from fires.”

Jason Gu and Bryan Tomko with SenSevere/Sensit Technologies in Pittsburgh and R. Subramanian with Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh received first place and $35,000 award. The winners used emerging technologies including miniaturized direct-reading sensors, compact microprocessors, and wireless data communications to develop prototypes for measuring smoke from wildland fires.

Also announced today were second-place winners Scott Waller and Andrew Smallridge with Thingy LLC, Bellevue, Wash. They received a $25,000 award.  Javier Fernandez with Kunak Technologies in Pamplona, Spain received an honorable mention.

Following rigorous two-phase laboratory testing by EPA and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), a panel of technical experts reviewed results. The experts looked for prototypes that are portable, durable, reliable, and wireless. The winning systems showed significant promise in their design; ability to detect fine particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide; and comparability to regulatory monitors.

This competition generated considerable interest in the sensor technology field and will help to further accelerate the development of monitoring technology for use during wildland fires.

EPA’s federal partners in sponsoring this challenge include the USFS, NASA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Park Service.

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