Michelle Zhu
Michelle Zhu
Elementary School Third Place Winner: 2011 Engineering & Human Service - Relief from a Disaster Essay Contest
Garden Gate Elementary School
A Cellular Phone Add-On Device for Disaster Emergency Communication

Nature disasters, such as floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, and famines happen time to time. At the same time, synthetic accidents such as oil spills, blackouts, building collapses, mining accidents, wildfires, and terrorist attacks have been reported in recent years too. To be better prepared to response to disasters, new technologies and devices are needed. When disaster strikes, it would be super if the rescue patrol teams know exactly how big the disaster is, what is going on at the sites, and where victims are. For example: if people are caught in a big flood, what would happen?  They would be eagerly hoping to get rescued. If help does not arrive soon enough, they might die. In that situation, it would be very important for them to have a special device to send out signals to contact rescue teams.

Nowadays, almost everybody has cellular phones which rely on base stations. When disaster happens, regular cellular phone may not work because base stations may be damaged or destroyed by the disaster and stop functioning. However, satellites in space will not be affected by destructive disasters on Earth. If people can send SOS signals and other information to satellites using their cellular phones, satellites can pass that critical information to rescue patrol teams.

Today’s ordinary cellular phones can only receive GPS signals from satellites, but cannot send signals to satellites [1]. Although satellite phones exist today, they are big, heavy, and expansive so not very popular. I like to design a device that can attach to ordinary cellular phones to offer a cheaper alternative compared with today’s satellites phones. My add-on device, which I named SD phone, will include a transmitter that can send stronger than normal cellular phone signals and in the format that satellites can pick up. Signals will include sender’s GPS position, natures of the disaster, and may include images of the site. Therefore, rescue patrol teams will know what to prepare and where to go. This special transmitter is not found in normal phones and should not be used for non-emergency situations. So it will be safe-guarded from sending false alarms. A protective case covering the SOS button will only be opened in emergent situations. The device will be small and use regular cellular phones’ battery. It converts cellular phone signals to satellite format, amplifies and transmits out.

In conclusion, my add-on device can extend regular cellular phone’s capability. By transmitting emergency signals to satellites in space, it can send critical information to rescue patrol teams. This device will greatly help preparation and execution of rescue efforts. A lot more lives can be saved and property loss can be avoided. When I grow up, I will develop this new device so it can help people when they desperately need it. People like mountain climbers, nature explorers, scientific researchers, or anyone who do things that are potentially dangerous need my device the first and the most.

[1] Tim Calabro; Robert Kao; William Petz; Dante Sarigumba, “BlackBerry® All-in-One For Dummies®”, Web ISBN: 0-470531-20-7