Graduates of CNM: Wesley Eccles

Wesley designed a smart device that can help land managers spot forest fires as soon as they start
August 24, 2021

Every year the American West experiences devastating forest fires. Right now, California has several giant blazes that have torn through forests and forced thousands to flee their homes.

CNM student Wesley Eccles, who grew up in California and saw first-hand how devastating these fires can be, decided he wanted to help so he set out to design a new device that can help forest managers spot these fires before they get out of control.

His device, which he designed and built in a recent CNM Internet of Things bootcamp, is a small cylinder that’s dropped by plane or drone and then floats down to the forest floor via parachute. Each one has an infrared heat sensor and a particulate sensor that can detect fire and smoke from something as small as a campfire. Each one also has a solar panel for power and a GPS beacon that allows people to track it’s exact location.

The idea, according to Wesley, would be to drop these devices in high-risk forest areas so that forest officials have a set of eyes and can immediately send resources if a fire starts. 

“I’m fully aware of how much damage fires do, and I’m excited about potentially being able to develop a device that can help us get out ahead,” he says. 

As you might expect, Wesley’s device immediately found an audience. He uploaded information about it to Hackster.Io, a community website for engineers and developers, and got a good response. Then he found something called the 2021 China-US Young Maker Competition where he could enter a device that had a positive impact on the planet.

“I entered and then I waited a couple of months and out of nowhere I got an email saying I had won and they were giving me $500,” Wesley says. “I didn’t think I was going to get anywhere near winning.”

Wesley was selected as one of the 10 winners from the U.S.—there were over 100 entries—and last weekend he competed against the 66 winners from China who beat out several hundred applicants from that country. On Monday he learned he was in the top 10 from the international competition and is waiting for his final score. As a top-10 finisher he automatically gets $5,000. If he wins the entire competition, he’ll bring home $15,000.

“I’m definitely very curious about where I’ll end up,” he says. 

The next steps for Wesley’s project are exciting. He’s developing a compostable parachute so that they don’t litter the forests (each smart device itself should last five or six years and then will be retrieved). With the help of his IoT instructor Brian Rashap, Wesley has also been in touch with both state and national agencies that are interested in exploring the project further. Wesley isn’t trying to get out ahead of himself, but says it would be great to see his device used in real-world scenarios.

“I’m excited that other people think it’s a good idea,” he says. “I’m also really grateful for the help from the IoT program and I’m glad to see everything moving forward.”