South Surrey student accepted in international science fair after developing ‘FyreWatch’ application

Firefighters battle the Mount Christie wildfire in 2020. (Photo submitted by Les Clarke)Firefighters battle the Mount Christie wildfire in 2020. (Photo submitted by Les Clarke)
Gurik Mangat. (Contributed photo)

A South Surrey high school student, who has seen first-hand the destruction caused by wildfires, has created an application that uses artificial intelligence to give firefighters real-time information on wildfire risks of a specific area.

Semiahmoo Secondary Grade 11 student Gurik Mangat, 17, is one of eight students across the country who will represent Canada at the virtual 2021 Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair from May 16-21. Selected by a panel of researchers, educators, and fair alumni, Mangat is to showcase his project ‘FyreWatch: Deep Learning for Accurate Wildfire Environmental Conditions Detection.’

Using remote senors and real-time satellite data, firefighters can input co-ordinates into his application to review wildfire conditions in a specific area.

“It uses deep learning, specifically neural networks, to basically run an AI algorithm on the data and determine if wildfire conditions are present or not,” Mangat said.

Mangat has been working on the software for nearly a year. At this point, he said, it’s a prototype to show the potential of the technology and how it can be used.

PHOTO: Satellite imagery shows origin of wildfire smoke

He was inspired to take on the project after smoke from wildfires in B.C.’s interior blanketed White Rock. He also went on a road trip with his family to Banff, Alta. and saw some of the devastation.

“When you actually go there and see how big the destruction is – and that wasn’t even the largest fire – it puts it into perspective for you,” he said.

Mangat said he learned how to develop the application through YouTube.

“Well, some books from the library… but I’ll be honest. YouTube was a lot better because you can find more centralized information on the specific topics that you like. It’s just a lot easier to learn,” Mangat said.

While post-secondary is still a couple years away for Mangat, he told PAN he’s interested in studying engineering. What type of engineering, he said, is still undecided.

“I really want to do something with space, but I’m also really interested in artificial intelligence,” he said.

Other students that are to represent Canada in the international competition are from Vancouver, Burnaby, Toronto and St. Catharines.

“We’re so proud of these students,” said Patrick Whippey, chairman of team Canada’s selection panel.

“They not only demonstrated a high level of ingenuity, critical thinking, curiosity and scientific excellence, but they also had to persevere through challenges brought about by the pandemic.”

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