The Bionic Porcupines 2.0, a team of four 12-year-olds from Sandy, Utah, decided to take bird safety under their wings during the ANIMAL ALLIESSM season by inventing a cost-effective (and award-winning), portable air dancer to prevent birds from striking airplanes.
During the team’s Project research, the kids learned about the impact of bird strikes at their local airport (Salt Lake City International Airport), along with the fact that this animal and human safety concern is common at all airports. Bird strikes cost airlines over $900 million USD annually!
The team met with airport wildlife staff to examine the current measures used to keep birds away from airplanes. They were especially interested in air dancers – brightly-colored tubes that flap in the air to scare away birds. When they learned that commercial air dancers were expensive and generator-operated, they decided to create a more cost-effective and greener option. Innovative Project Solutions like this one don’t have to start from scratch. Sometimes the greatest innovations start by making improvements to something that already exists. The kids knew that their product would have to withstand handling and weather, so they made durability a priority in their design. “The people at the airport throw it into their truck, so it has to be durable and portable,” team member Timothy said.
After hours of careful research, the kids developed a small, portable, battery-operated air dancer called the “Bionic Scarecrow”. “We spent over ten hours on the field researching how to make our device as perfect as possible,” said team member Eric. The device can be placed where the birds nest, and it uses random motion to help scare birds away from airplane traffic. “We are saving birds and people,” explained team member Allison.
The Salt Lake City International Airport was so impressed by the kids’ invention that they tested the devices for over six months, and they continue to use them as part of the airport’s wildlife control operation. They’re even looking to purchase additional devices from the team in the future!
The team is also looking to expand on their invention – they recently obtained a provisional patent for their invention, which they hope to market to more airports. As team member Abigail explained, “all over the world, many airports are either near bird habitats or on major bird migratory routes. What our Bionic Scarecrow is doing, is scaring away the birds to save lives. Our Project is making a difference in the world.” The kids foresee their invention making a global impact, and they are off to a great start!
The team has won numerous awards for their contribution to environmental stewardship and entrepreneurialism, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) President’s Environmental Youth Award!
Congratulations to the Bionic Porcupines 2.0 for making air travel safer for birds and people! We wish you continued success with the Bionic Scarecrow.