Fortunately, not many young teenagers get stranded in the wilderness; fewer still come back inspired to use technology to prevent it from happening to anyone else. But that’s what happened to Sara Du, the winner of this year’s Student category for the Imagine Blue awards and creator of the Bluejay device.

Sara wound up stranded due to a technology failure. “A few years ago, I volunteered at an event,” she explains, “in this little valley between the mountains…After the event, everybody started to leave and I texted my dad to have him pick me up…When everybody was gone, I took out my phone and boy was I in for a surprise. I saw that little red exclamation mark, aka the message not sent symbol, and started freaking out…It was getting dark and the park was literally in the middle of nowhere, so it was a pretty scary experience. Long story short, [I] managed to reach my dad after an hour. While I was stranded, I was thinking that if I managed to survive, I’d find a way to get rid of this problem.”

Sara says of herself, “If I’m not a techie then I don’t really know what I am.” Perhaps that’s why she turned to technology to solve the problem she encountered that day in the mountains. “When I started learning to code, I was really interested in wireless communication,” she explains. She already had a strong interest in the hardware side of her invention: drones. “Besides making software, I also really love building and flying drones. Ever since I was little I’ve been fascinated with the concept of flight. My dad used to take me to the local airport just to watch the planes.”

The intersection of her interests eventually led to Sara’s prize-winning idea. “I’ve always been an outdoorsy person, so I often go on hikes in the mountains where there’s no cell signal. The idea of a project which combined drones and wireless communications was what made me think of the concept…I was influenced by my experience to create Bluejay, a software/hardware combination that’s able to find missing people!”

Bluejay is a drone that uses an onboard Intel Edison computer and Bluetooth® technology to communicate with both people in need of rescuing and rescuers; it’s intended for use in situations with lost hikers or other stranded folks, as well as in natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, fires, and more. While wifi and cellular service can fail in situations like these, Bluetooth would still function, Sara explains, so the Bluejay drone could still communicate with cell phones and facilitate rescues.

Although we wouldn’t be surprised if Sara had been programming iOS apps since she could use a computer, in fact she’s only been coding for about two years. “I rarely used technology in elementary and middle school,” she says. “I spent more time playing in the mud than surfing the web…That changed when I moved across the country and found myself in a more fast-paced environment. I stumbled on the tech community over here and fell in love with technology. As I learned more about virtual reality, artificial intelligence, etc., I started to see huge potential for these technologies in everyday life. That’s what motivated me to teach myself how to program and start building technology with people in mind.”

What’s required to teach oneself how to program? We think it has a lot to do with Sara’s keen interest in problem-solving and analysis, exemplified by the way she correlates her two favorite school subjects. Calculus and English, she says, are “more similar than many people would think…With Calculus, writing proofs is just like writing a literary analysis in English. Although I prefer the problem-solving aspect of Calculus and the sense of accomplishment I get when I figure something out, I also think that analyzing a passage can be interesting because of the many deeper meanings that I can find under the words.”

Sara also has a strong family background in technological versatility. “My grandfather has been an inspiration for me since as long as I can remember,” she tells us. “Even though he’s nearing 90, he’s still able to keep up with the latest in technology. While many of my peers don’t even know what a VPN is, my grandfather has taught himself how to jump over China’s Great Firewall so that he can browse the web freely. As a retired professor of physics, he still has a deep knowledge of the basic laws of sound; those never change. But, what I respect about my grandfather is his curiosity and willingness to learn. If he can do it, then what’s stopping me from innovating?”

Innovation is the perfect description for what Sara likes to do: Bluejay started out as a side project for her. “I’ve been working on Bluejay for around half a year now,” she says. “I’d come home from school on the weekdays and spend a couple of hours a week…[I] enjoyed the process because it was a good way to forget about school and stress. Today, working on Bluejay is still a fun hobby of mine and I try not to take myself too seriously, although it is a great honor to be a finalist for Imagine Blue.”

Sara’s no longer a finalist, though: we’re delighted to name her as the overall winner for the student category – where she will receive a $5,000 USD cash prize. We are proud to be part of her groundbreaking new technology. Congratulations to Sara, and to all the Imagine Blue student finalists!

How Audio Sharing Will Spark a New Wave of Audio Innovation

For more than 20 years, Bluetooth® technology evolved and expanded to support a wide…

2021 Bluetooth Market Update

Supported by updated forecasts from ABI Research and insights from several other analyst firms, the Bluetooth Market Update highlights the latest Bluetooth trends and forecasts.

Qualified Bluetooth Mesh - Unlocking the Value of the Building

Facilities managers are growing increasingly conscious that the buildings they manage need to be…

Location tracking in healthcare with the Quuppa Intelligent Locating System

Quuppa, a Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS) provider based in Espoo, was founded in 2012…

Responding to In-Person Teaching Challenges with BLE Real-Time Location Services

Announcements regarding the reopening of schools have begun to appear regularly throughout the US.…

Sensor Technologies for Health, Wellness and Productivity

Navigating the landscape of COVID-19 recommendations and guidelines is a challenge for building owners…

Is Remote IOP Testing Here To Stay?

Like many organizations around the world, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has made…

Asset Tracking Post COVID-19: From Use Cases to Case Studies

In the wake of the pandemic, the need for businesses and government facilities to…

Location Tracking As One of the Emerging Technologies and Trends By Gartner

Gartner is a leading research and advisory company with a finger on the pulse…

Bluetooth® Talks: Bluetooth Technology for Lighting

In this webinar UL and the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) explore: Market trends…

BLE Hard Tag Allows In-Store Shoppers to Buy Goods via Smartphone

Zliide’s new tag enables customers to capture product data by tapping a phone, complete a purchase…

Cost-Effective Solutions for End-to-End Manufacturing Visibility

Cost pressures on global manufacturers are enormous. Consolidations and driving toward higher efficiency have…

How Bluetooth® Technology is Enabling Safe Return Strategies in a COVID-19 Era

This report shares insight into how Bluetooth® technology is being leveraged by organizations of all sizes to…

Social Distancing by the Thousands: How our BT710 Makes it Easy

As more governments, schools, workplaces, and others explore options for resuming public life in…

From vehicles to vaccines (and BLE to NB-IoT): five key asset tracking use cases

FedEx has introduced a new Bluetooth based asset tracking system in time for anticipated…

Designing and Developing Bluetooth® Internet Gateways

Design and implement your own Bluetooth® Internet Gateway (BIG) working prototype and see for yourself how BIGs allow applications to exchange data with Bluetooth devices from anywhere in the world.

Setting the Record Straight on Bluetooth Security

As a follower and fan of technology news, you may have seen the occasional…

Understanding Reliability in Bluetooth® Technology

Download this detailed discussion of the issues and factors that impact the reliability of…

Reducing the Risk of COVID-19 Transmission

Learn how Philips partnered with Cassia Networks to help fight the spread of COVID-19…

Bluetooth Market Research Note - Assistive Hearables

Bluetooth Market Research Notes provide in-depth analysis of trends and forecasts highlighted in the…

Extending an ENS to Support Wearable Devices

See how an ENS can better address population groups critical to managing a pandemic…

POM Tracer Ensures Workplace Safety with Contact Tracing Solutions from Laird Connectivity

POM Tracer was looking to create an easy-to-implement product that would allow businesses and…

Smartlock Provides Unparalleled Security

As more and more devices become smart devices with internet connectivity, the urgency to…

How to Deploy BlueZ on a Raspberry Pi Board as a Bluetooth Mesh Provisioner

This step-by-step study guide will teach you: How to rebuild the kernel on a…

The Bluetooth LE Security Study Guide

Learn about fundamental security concepts, the security features of Bluetooth Low Energy, and gain some hands-on experience using those features in device code.

Bluetooth Location Services

See 8 use cases for enhancing building efficiencies and creating a better visitor experience, discover new data that supports the latest trends and forecasts, and find out what’s driving the rapid adoption of location services solutions.

Overview – Bluetooth Technology

See how the global standard for simple, secure connection has expanded to meet the…