Students Prototype Design for School Security System Using Raspberry Pi

Elizabeth Adams
Nov 19, 2019 · 4 min read
Students from BGA High School Prototype School Security Solution

School safety is on everyone’s mind but no one more than students. They are the ones who go to school every day and have to consider what might happen if an intruder enters their campus. This is something Amy Yarbrough, former student at Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, TN, has given a lot of thought to. After writing a paper on the ethics of teachers carrying handguns, Amy brainstormed better ways to make their school safer.

BGA has an entrepreneurship class that teaches students about local businesses and allows them to work on starting a business themselves. Initial State CEO Jamie Bailey spoke to the class about his company and technology. This gave Amy an idea: she could create a school security system using Initial State, a Raspberry Pi, and a smart lock. The students had to present ideas of how they could use Initial State in a business and Amy’s Raspberry Pi project idea won.

Now she and her team member Evelyn Zhu, current student at Battle Ground Academy, needed to take their project from idea to reality. That is where the Initial State team came in to help. Based on their idea and outline, the team put together a system that would read a finger print scanner connected to a Raspberry Pi, send a mass text alert to students and faculty, use smart lock to secure the room, and live stream updates to a dashboard.

Raspberry Pi with fingerprint scanner

Here is how the system works. It is built with a fingerprint scanner connected to a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ outfitted with a case and touchscreen. The program is started by running a python script in the command line on the Pi. The fingerprint scanner and Raspberry Pi will sit at a teacher’s desk. The program is set to constantly run and the Pi is connected to WiFi. The teacher’s fingerprint is indexed in the system. If an emergency occurs, the teacher can initiate the program by pressing a button on the touch screen. This will turn on the fingerprint scanner and allow them to scan their fingerprint. Once the fingerprint is matched, the prompt asks if the teacher would like to start an emergency alert. The teacher can start an alert or cancel if it is not an emergency.

Raspberry Pi running School Security Program

Starting an emergency alert will initiate Twilio to send a mass text to all faculty, teachers, and students on the contact list. The text message says, “Code Blue.” This lets everyone know an emergency is happening and to follow the safety procedures.

Twilio text message

The next step in the process is for the teacher to ensure the door is closed and secure it with a Haven smart lock. The Haven smart lock can be initiated with a FOB if the door is already closed. The lock will ensure an intruder cannot open or break down the door with force. It is outfitted with a SmartThings sensor. This IoT sensor can send data to an Initial State dashboard to show if it is open or closed. This will confirm that the classroom is secure.

Haven smart lock with SmartThings sensor attached

While all this is happening, data is being sent from the Raspberry Pi to an Initial State dashboard. The Raspberry Pi will send an update showing an emergency alert is active, that the mass text has successfully been sent, and the name of the teacher who started the alert. The SmartThings sensor on the Haven smart lock will show it is activated and secured. Another SmartThings contact sensor on the door will show that it is closed. If this school security system was equipped in each teacher’s room, the dashboard could show updates for every room. Within the dashboard users can measure time between alert being initiate and doors being secured. This would allow for the school to measure response times for each room and measure the system’s effectiveness.

Initial State school security dashboard

Once the emergency has been resolved, the teacher can end the alert on their Raspberry Pi and the program will restart to await a future emergency.

Two students in a high school entrepreneur class were able to envision a system that would keep their school safe. A system like this is fairly inexpensive and easy to implement. This could even be used for a home security system. It is a viable option for schools that don’t have a big budget but need a solution.

IoT Dashboards for Real-Time Data