‘Chasing Genius’ through Honors in Action

The members of Alpha Zeta Eta at North Lake College in Texas found a larger platform to broadcast their Honors in Action Project: National Geographic’s Chasing Genius Challenge. Although they didn’t win, thousands of people from all over the country got a first-hand look at the work one Phi Theta Kappa chapter is doing in its community.

Chapter officers and members conducted research — including a nationwide survey — on air quality during the spring and summer and found a need to educate the community on what poor air quality is and how to handle respiratory health under poor air quality conditions. Roughly 58 percent of survey participants suffer from asthma or have a family member who suffers from asthma.

“Once studying the results of our nationwide survey, we focused on the Air Quality in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and realized that 51 percent of the people residing in our area knew less about Air Quality Index and how to interpret the information than the others who took the survey,” said Susan Moorthy, vice president of communications.

Chapter members plan to educate the community about air quality through their Honors in Action Project, Breathe. But, they also hope to go a step further and develop an Air Quality Sensor Strip, which they’re calling “Breatheware,” a micro-sensor that would wirelessly connect to smartphones.

The strip would pair with a free app that would give a detailed description of air quality of the surrounding area indicated through color codes. The program is targeted at those with asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“We believe this innovation would greatly help those who suffer from asthma, but it would also help alert innocent children and elderly patients with some knowledge to be safer,” Susan said.

The chapter submitted its project to National Geographic’s Chasing Genius Challenge with hopes of taking home one of four $25,000 prizes for funding. Thousands of projects were submitted, and the chapter finished as a finalist in the Global Health category, receiving more than 870 votes. See their entry.

“We received votes from all around the country and even had people contacting us to see if we could create videos on the information to send their way,” advisor Candace Eldridge said. “It was really great for our students to do this.”

The chapter is now looking at next steps for getting publicity for their project and “Breatheware” product. They were recently approved to present and hand out information at the upcoming Texas State Fair, which boasts an attendance of more than 2 million people.

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