Willowbrook HS students want to combat vaping crisis using their STEM skills

Leah Hope Image
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Students from Willowbrook High School in Villa Park want to do their part to curb the vaping epidemic using their STEM skills.

VILLA PARK, Ill. (WLS) -- A group of west suburban high school students work with their teacher to tackle a current challenge for teens -- vaping.

The students are well aware of the problem in their school, and they know it happens a lot in the bathrooms.

"This is the sensor that will detect for concentration of nicotine in the air," said Talhah Waheed, a senior at Willowbrook High School. "I've coded an algorithm that specifically tells you how much voltage is going through the resister, and it can convert that to parts per million of nicotine concentration in the atmosphere itself."

Their project consists of creating vape detectors for school bathrooms and a campaign to combat misconceptions about vaping. It got the attention of an international company.

The Willowbrook team also won the statewide Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Contest, along with $15,000 in technology for their school.

"We are really excited. The kids are eager to build the vaping detector and to do some more research and see what we can do here at Willowbrook High School," their teacher Josh Zwart said.

They've begun research for their campaign already.

"By being proactive and trying to raise awareness about ailments that could arise from using e-cigarettes, hopefully I can bypass some of those consequences for my peers," senior Jack Carey said.

Zwart said the focus of the engineering class is on improving the world for others.

"The kids are really engaged and love building robots and working on new machinery for the future," he said.

All the state winners will continue working on their projects and submit a video, then 20 finalists will be chosen.

Five grand prize winners will get $100,000 in technology and materials for their schools in the spring.