LEGO team idea: evacuation sign

Evacuated sign
Evacuated sign
Rough draft of sign developed by the NEON SPARKS LEGO robotics team

A team of eight elementary school girls who are on the NEON SPARKS LEGO robotics team in Oregon sent us an idea they have been working on. The photo above is a very rough draft of a sign that would be much more polished in the final version. Below is the text of an email they sent us:


“This year, we have spent the past 4 months researching Wildfires, wildland urban interface (WUI) areas, and defensible space. As a result of their extensive research, we have developed a rather simple, easy to use system for people living in WUI areas to signal to other people that they have evacuated their homes in the event of a mandatory evacuation.

Basically, we have developed a sign which people can place in the front window, or other areas of their home to signal to firefighters or other law enforcement people that a home is cleared of all people and pets. Through our research, we found similar signs available for homeowners living in areas prone to tsunami, tornados, floods, and hurricane evacuations. But, we could not find any such signs available for homeowners or rural homeowner associations in WUI areas prone to wildfires – especially here in the Pacific Northwest. Our prototype sign would be made of a fire-resistant material, brightly colored, and very inexpensive to manufacture and distribute. We feel this real-world, simple, and easy to use sign could have the potential to free-up valuable firefighter’s time, and save lives too.

Thank you for any positive feedback you would like to share with us.

The Neon Sparks LEGO Robotics Team in Oregon”


From Bill:

What do you think, readers of Wildfire Today? Have you seen anything like this used on wildfires or any other natural disasters in your area?

I have to admit, I don’t really know what these LEGO competitions are all about. When I was a kid LEGOs had not yet become popular.

Typos, let us know HERE. And, please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

8 thoughts on “LEGO team idea: evacuation sign”

  1. Seems like something FD’s and agencies could easily embrace, and could even print and provide – then on the back of the sign, provide fire-safety information, perhaps including such things as defensible space, evacuation routes, turning off utilities, preparing your home for evac, emergency contact info (contact info for agencies, or a fill-in space for the homeowner to provide their own contact info when evacuated), or other such info. Whatever info that agency feels their homeowners need, or that they need from their homeowners while evacuated. Would make a great opportunity for public contact in a very positive way (compared to telling them “you have to do this” which isn’t always received well).

  2. The LEGO competition includes building a robot to perform various physical challenges and a science project. The theme for the science project this year is natural disasters. I was recently interviewed by a couple of teams involved in the LEGO challenge here in British Columbia. Both teams had decided to use wildfire as their team project subject. I also volunteered as a judge at a local mock competition that was used to prepare the teams for an upcoming regional competition. Fascinating to hear the many great ideas the kids had about mitigating the negative impact of wildfires on communities. Some of their ideas already exist but they came up with them independantly such as converting military tanks for firefighting purposes, massive walls of sprinklers, community wildfire warning systems (like tsunami warning systems) and remote sensing to detect wildfires. It was so much fun to spend a few hours with such unfettered young imaginations.

  3. Bill,
    I am too old for LEGOS too, but what these kids are doing is really inspiring.
    My daughter has been involved for years.
    FLL is for kids in grades 4-8, each year they have a competition and build LEGO based robots to complete different tasks on a large game board. As a part of the overall program they have a “theme” they research and try to problem solve around. This years theme is “Nature’s Fury”. It all culminates in a world championship competition after making it through local, state and regional qualifying rounds. The work/research they do in the “theme” portion is important to their overall score.
    There is no doubt in my mind these kids will come up with some cool and interesting ideas.
    Here are a couple of links …

  4. I think some sort of standardized marking system would be great, but like the Tot Finder stickers on windows, really hard to implement, especially in these times where people are so concerned about personal security. It’s always an issue in areas where evacuations have taken place, concerns for looting and burglary.

    That aside, I doubt that fire resistance would be really important, areas that have been burned are lower on our radar, once the flame front has passed, we tend not to worry so much about evacuations. Or they could be put back up, if needed.

    I agree, the concept of getting flexible young minds involved in projects like this tends to be really exciting.

  5. I’m more of a Lincoln Log guy. Way before Legos. I think the poster idea has merit and could be very useful and save a lot of time in a crisis situation. Granted, it may need a little tweaking, but it’s a good idea.

    1. I
      It’s great to see kids at this age taking an interest in wildfire science. The sign is a great and easy to implement idea. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ideas. I could see how this sign could easily be implemented by RFD. Signs could be given out to rural area homeowners with agreed upon instructions for their use. Keep up the good work.

  6. Dear Mr. Gabbert,

    Thank you for posting the info. about our team’s research project. We appreciate your time. We would also like to thank everyone that left a comment about our innovative solution.
    If your readers would like to learn more about our team, they may click on the following link:


    The Neon Sparks – WUI! GRR! 🙂 (;

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