Megan Pence

Megan Pence

High School Third Place Winner: 2011 Engineering & Human Service - Relief from a Disaster Essay Contest
Allen D. Nease High School
Megan Pence

Trapped. Surrounded by a thick and chalky darkness, Andre can hardly breathe or move. He does not know how far down the earthquake has pulled him. He has no feeling in his leg wedged under the rubble. Screaming out of pain, Andre makes his voice project through the crevices. But can anyone hear? Suddenly he sees a light slowly descend toward him. To some, the light is just a little video camera, but to Andre, the Victim Location System SearchCAM 2000 is a lifesaver.

After drilling a 1.75-inch diameter hole through the rubble, the search team lowers the camera until catching a visual of Andre. The micro video camera is positioned on the end of an adjustable rod also known as a probe. When needed, the probe can extend to a maximum of 20’ for horizontal or vertical operation by a simple turn and pull of the probe. The SearchCAM 2000 was constructed of a high strength, lightweight, and durable aluminum alloy. Therefore, it could extend straight out without snapping in half due to gravity. Combining that with a visual range of 180 degrees no spot goes unseen, even in complete darkness. The high-resolution color video camera contains a variable intensity illumination light located in its center. It can adjust the protruding light automatically according to its surroundings. This acts like a flashlight revealing the exact conditions of the victim and their situation to the searchers above.

The glowing beam fell over Andre – for the first time he saw his crushed and bloody leg. Then he heard a voice call, “We’re going to get you out.” Not only does the SearchCAM 2000 have the ability to find the victim and assess their situation, but it also provides a communication system between rescuers and their targets. During the initial searching, the SearchCAM 2000 picks up sound that travels in the rubble. The sound acts as a guide to the rescuers. Once a victim is located, a speaker on the side of the cylindrical camera allows the rescuers to instruct and reassure the victim. From above, the camera operator speaks into the microphone in his headset that is plugged into the console. Electrical cables in the console carry his voice down through the probe and out the communication speaker. An acoustical search microphone located on the outer rim of the camera enables the target to talk with the rescuer. In the same way, the voice of the target is carried up through the probe’s cables, into the console, and out through the headphone speakers. If desired, the rescuer has the option of hearing the voice through the console’s speakers. When multiple people need communication with the victim, the headphones are detached from the console. With the SearchCAM 2000, rescuers are able to both listen and look at their target.

Cables in the probe connect the micro video camera to a permanently mounted console located near the top of the probe. The console consists of a detachable LCD flat screen operated through a pistol style control grip. Rockers on the control grip allow rescuers to manipulated the different variables of the SearchCAM. The illumination rocker overrides the automatic light protruding from the camera. When pushed right or left, the light can be intensified or dimmed. The microphone rocker allows rescuers to control the volume on the microphone. The PPT rocker is pushed when rescuers are talking to the victim and released when listening to the victim’s response. The articulation rocker directs the camera to the right or left. Finally, the on/off rocker powers the SearchCAM 2000. When a rocker moves, the variable controlled is displayed on the LCD screen as bar graphs moving up and down. If desired, the LCD screen can be detached and moved up to thirty feet away with a cable connection. Another screen can be attached to the console through a cable connection for a maximum number of rescuers to view their victim.

They could see Andre sweating, partly out of relief, but mostly because the rocks that consumed him also absorbed and trapped immense amounts of heat. When designing the SearchCAM 2000, environmental engineers had to take into account the variety of weather conditions in which the camera could operate. For this reason, they designed the camera to operate within a temperature range of 14°F-140°F. They cooperated with structural engineers to make sure that the SearchCAM 2000 would not snap in half in the extreme cold. They cooperated with electrical engineers to make sure that the cables and circuitry in the console could withstand extreme heat. Engineers also had to take into consideration the wear over time. To prevent abrasion and strain, they covered the cables with a polyurethane coating. To keep out moisture and dust, they sealed all joints with a neoprene oaring sealant. Mechanical engineers figured out how to design the SearchCAM 2000 to operate efficiently. They had to create a camera that could squeeze into small places, operate for long periods of time on battery, hear a victim and guide the rescuers toward them, and prevent the camera from interfering with other frequencies such as a radio. The latter is done through a sun shield attached to the top of the console. It blocks out any other frequencies by sending out a destructive frequencies. Engineers also had to develop the machines that would assemble the SearchCAM 2000. This means that another group of mechanical, industrial, material, computer and electrical engineers contributed to the Victim Location System SearchCAM 2000. Their hard work has saved lives.

Finally Andre saw the light of day. The rescuers pulled him up out of the rubble and led him safely home. “If I had been surrounded by a pool of water,” he thought, “I might not have survived.” The SearchCAM 2000 is not one hundred percent water resistant. The console located at the top is slightly resistant to water, but as a whole the SearchCAM cannot be immersed water. I would develop the SearchCAM 2000 to operate in water so people trapped under fallen bridges, or collapsed buildings with burst water pipes, could be saved. Think of the devastation that Hurricane Katrina brought. Thousands of people lost their homes and hundreds lost their lives. With a waterproof SearchCAM, the rescuers could find a trapped victim surrounded by water with little breathing space. To make the SearchCAM 2000 waterproof, engineers would have to design a wetsuit -like covering made of neoprene that could be slipped over the whole SearchCAM. Neoprene is synthetic rubber that traps the water in between its gas filled cells. It is the main material in wetsuits because of its flexibility and buoyancy in water. Neoprene is also used in electrical insulators because of its resistance to chemicals and thermal insulation. When wearing a neoprene wet suit, the heat given off by the camera would warm the surrounding water. Therefore, the neoprene wetsuit would act as an insulator protecting the camera from extreme water temperatures. This would keep camera operational and dry. The screens of the SearchCAM 2000 could be covered with plexiglass. Manufacturers would use a neoprene adhesive to make the plexiglass-wetsuit connection watertight. Using the same technique, the micro video camera could also be covered on all sides with the wetsuit and a piece of plexiglass over the lens. Sound engineers would have to figure out the required frequency of wavelengths needed in the camera in order to hear sounds coming from victims under water. This is because sound waves travel at different speeds in air than in water. Upgrading the SearchCAM 2000 for underwater use would turn a great creation into a sensational innovation.

Overall, the Victim Location System SearchCAM 2000 is the number one Victim Locator used by search and rescue teams. It has saved hundreds of lives since its release date in the year 2000 and has evolved into more than six different types of camera location devices. Thanks to the well thought-out design of the engineers, the SearchCAM 2000 operates in almost every possible environment. In freezing cold and in extreme heat, in bright light and in complete darkness, in crowded places and noisy areas, the Victim Location System SearchCAM 2000 is the ultimate disaster relief invention.

Works Cited:

Special Thanks to CON-SPACE Customer Manager, Laura Girdler, who provided me with the information necessary to complete this essay.