Where the wildfires are

It inspired Matthew Gann, ECE’05, to pursue graduate school, and instilled in Michael Ellebrecht, ECE’05, a newfound love for writing. It could save the lives of firefighters, preserve countless acres of natural resources and cut the huge annual costs of firefighting.


“It” is a new system for mapping wildfires using wireless sensor networks – a research project that Gann, Ellebrecht and Randall Bilbrey, a senior in computer engineering, have been pursuing for the past year and a half under the guidance of Shoukat Ali, assistant professor of computer and electrical engineering, and Sahra Sedigh-Ali, assistant professor jointly of computer and electrical engineering and information science and technology.
Wildfires consumed more than 8.5 million acres in the United States in 2005, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Officials rely on satellite imagery to detect wildfires. But those images are often outdated because the satellite flies over the wildfire area only once a day, say the student researchers. “According to wildfire suppression experts, that’s not enough,” says Ellebrecht. “They want a map of the fire every 30 minutes. We want to make our system so that it fills in the gaps that the current system has.”
The three hope their research will provide the answer. “If instead of sort of guessing as to where we should deploy the resources, if we could know that this is the absolute best way to deploy the resources, we could fight these (fires) quicker” and considerably reduce expense and risk factors, Ellebrecht says.
The students hope to develop a system in which thousands or even millions of tiny sensors – possibly no larger than the head of a pin – can be dropped from the air over an area in danger of being consumed by a spreading wildfire. These minuscule computers, each equipped with a number of sensors, would communicate with one another via a wireless network and send a map of the area to a base station every 30 minutes.
Issues such as cost and the potential environmental impact of the sensors are also being taken into account through this project, the students say. “If we’re trying to sell this,” says Gann, “we are definitely going to get the price down so you aren’t spending close to a billion a year trying to suppress wildfires.”
By Amy Nisbett Hobbs, a senior history major.

Around the Puck

“Forged in Gold: Missouri S&T’s First 150 Years”

In the 1870s, Rolla seemed an unlikely location for a new college. There were only about 1,400 residents in a community with more saloons than houses of worship. There were no paved streets, sewers or water mains. To visitors, there seemed to be as many dogs, hogs, horses, ducks and geese as humans walking the dusty streets.

[Read More...]

By the numbers: Fall/Winter 2019

[Read More...]

Bringing clean water to South America

Assessing water quality, surveying mountaintop locations and building systems to catch rainwater — that’s how members of S&T’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders spent their summer break.

[Read More...]

Geothermal goals exceeded

After five years of operation, Missouri S&T’s geothermal energy system continues to outperform expectations. S&T facilities operations staff originally predicted the geothermal system would reduce campus water usage by over 10% — roughly 10 million gallons per year. The system, which went online in May 2014, cut actual water usage by 18 million to 20 […]

[Read More...]

What happens in Vegas…may appear in print

In his latest volume of Las Vegas lore, historian Larry Gragg says it was deliberate publicity strategies that changed the perception of Sin City from a regional tourist destination where one could legally gamble and access legalized prostitution just outside the city limits, to a family vacation spot filled with entertainment options and surrounded by […]

[Read More...]