Asa Tuten Memorial – GFSA Essay Contest

The Asa Tuten Memorial – GFSA Essay Contest for 2019 has ended. Thank you to all who participated.

The first place winner of a $1500 scholarship is Ausaf at South Forsyth High School

The second place winner of a $1000 scholarship is Riley at Tift County High School

The third place winner of a $750 scholarship is Kenny at Duluth High School

The scholarship will be paid directly to the educational institution in the student’s account.

The first place essay by Ausaf:
n. combustion or burning, in which substances combine chemically with oxygen from the air and typically give out bright light, heat, and smoke.
“his house was destroyed by fire” [1]

It is said that our ability to start fires is what has allowed us to overcome the challenges of mother nature and develop into the advanced global civilization we are today. However, fire is a vengeful servant to humanity – when left unsupervised, it will spread and raze all that stands in its path, reducing it to ash. Luckily for us, advances in our understanding of fire and improvements in our engineering abilities have provided us with the ability to stop the majority of fires before they can destroy what we have built so carefully.

The first recorded fire sprinkler system was designed in the 15th century by Leonardo Da Vinci, built to extinguish an elaborate banquet hall in the case of a fire. In a comical display of Murphy’s law, everything went haywire, and a fire broke out in the kitchen. The sprinkler system worked all too well, causing a flood that washed away the food along with a sizeable portion of the kitchen. [2]

As with all inventions, the passage of time led to many improvements in fire sprinkler systems. With the advent of large scale manufacturing plants in the Industrial Revolution, the use of perforated water pipes became commonplace. [3] While these were effective, there was still plenty of room for improvement. There was no method of automation or localization–if nobody was there when the fire started, the system would not activate, and when it was activated, the entire factory would be sprayed with water, not just the area where the fire occurred, causing additional damage.

One of the most notable advances in sprinkler systems was covering the perforations with melting tar, which allowed water to spray in only the areas where the fire was, reducing water damage. [3] Although tar was replaced with different materials in future iterations, the concept of heat based actuation, or using the fire’s heat to activate the flow of water, has persisted to the modern day.

Today’s advanced fire suppression systems solve the problems of their predecessors using our increased understanding of fire science and engineering. The modern fire sprinkler consists of a pressurized valve that is held back by a heat-activated operating element. The element consists of a thin, hermetically sealed glass tube filled with a liquid that expands greatly when exposed to the heat of a fire. When the liquid expands, the glass shatters, releasing the valve and causing fluid to flow out at high pressure. The fluid impacts a metal distribution deflector, which is specially shaped to evenly distribute water droplets over the fire in a predetermined pattern. [4] Multiple sprinkler heads are placed optimally to maximize coverage and minimize the risk of fire spread. These systems are incredibly effective, activating successfully in 91% of fires and extinguishing fires 96% of the time they activate. [5]

Their passive, independent design allows modern fire sprinkler systems to be extremely robust, reliable, and adaptable. If a single sprinkler head fails, the others remain unaffected. The fluid released by the sprinkler is either water, which is suitable in most cases, or foam, which is used in the case of flammable liquid fires. The liquid in the operating element comes in different colors, where each color represents a different threshold temperature. The distribution deflector can be altered to spray fluid in a given direction, allowing sprinkler heads to be placed in different orientations and extinguish fires in hard to reach areas.

Recent advances in technology could result in even more capable fire sprinkler systems. With computers and electronics growing increasingly compact and cost-effective, it may soon become practical to develop a fire sprinkler system that utilizes thermal imaging and object detection algorithms to more accurately extinguish fires and minimize water damage. This may be especially useful in sensitive applications such as in data centers with delicate electronics. For example, when a fire is detected via a thermal camera, the sprinkler would determine the exact position of the fire and spray water directly at the fire rather than dousing the general area and destroying sensitive equipment.

Another potential improvement could be internet connected fire sprinkler systems. When a fire is detected, a smart sprinkler system could relay important data about the fire to the local fire department, giving them crucial information such as the exact location of the fire and people in the building. In the rare case that the suppression system is unable to subdue the fire, this technology could reduce response time, allowing firefighters to save more valuable lives.

Advancements in artificial intelligence and statistical data analysis techniques could also allow fire suppression systems to predict the occurrence of fires, leading to faster actuation times and minimized damage. For example, predictive software could monitor a building’s electrical systems and detect current spikes that would lead to fires occurring. [6] This way, the sprinkler system could be activated when a fire is in its earlier stages rather than when it is hot enough to activate the conventional operating element, further minimizing damage.

With brilliant engineers and scientists working each day to improve fire sprinkler systems, the risk of property damage and loss of life from fire is reducing. There may soon come a day when automatic fire suppression systems have advanced to such a degree that there will no longer be a need for human intervention–a remarkable achievement, as firefighters will no longer have to risk their lives entering burning buildings.

Works Cited
1. “Fire – Definition, Examples, Related Words and More at Wordnik.”,
2. Gelb, Michael. How to Think like Leonardo Da Vinci: Seven Steps to Every Day Genius. Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2004.
3. “Inevitability of the Fire Sprinkler.” MeyerFire,
4. Lloyd, Stuart. “Fire Sprinkler Systems Explained.” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Aug. 2014,
5. “Are Fire Sprinklers Effective?” Unifour Fire, 28 June 2017,
6. “Statistically Predicting Electrical Arcing.” UL New Science,

Click Here to Download 2019 Contest Information