Fourteen-year-old Zorawar Singh was stuck at home after lockdown for a couple weeks in March when he had the brilliant idea to build a thermal camera from scratch.
Singh was inspired to use it in his school to test if someone had a fever, a common COVID-19 symptom. The teenager figured out how to build the camera using YouTube tutorials on Raspberry Pi 4, a single small-board computer, and Python, a programming language. After over 100 failed attempts, he finally had a breakthrough.
“It was a lot of research,” said the View Royal teenager. “I spent two hours every day [for four months]. We didn’t want to give up after getting no response. We kept going until it finally worked. It felt great.”
Simply put, a camera no bigger than a pinky fingernail takes several photos within a matter of seconds, analyzes the heat sensors, and updates a screen with the highest detected temperature. The more red means the hotter the subject is, while blue corresponds with a colder temperature. The camera can read temperatures up to 27 feet away.
“He was always ahead in math in his class,” said Aman Singh, his father. “He was diagnosed with autism at three. Everything that he’s learned has been from the internet.”
Zorawar has made countless robotic projects on his own at his View Royal home.
Going forward, he plans to create 10 touchless hand-sanitizer machines which can be powered by USB. His father says what usually could cost $75 to $100 for a single dispenser can be reproduced for $10 to $15 with his son’s ingenuity.
Now, he’s just waiting for a few more pieces to arrive in the mail before he builds and shares them between his old school at Lighthouse Christian Academy and his new school at Esquimalt High School. As he heads into Grade 9, the 14-year-old dreams of becoming a programmer one day.
“I’m not a tech guy,” said Aman. “But seeing the look on his face [when he successfully used the camera] was a wonderful moment.”