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As Daniela Orozco picks off excess plastic bordering a 3D-printed box, she recalls how many homeless people she saw on her way to school when she was a high school freshman. Just one.
Four years later, the number has multiplied. People live on a main thoroughfare near the school, at a nearby park, and below the off-ramps and bridges in her hometown of San Fernando, which is about 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. In the San Fernando Valley, homelessness increased 36% to 7,094 people last year, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Agency's annual count. Daniela and her friends wanted to help, but giving money wasn’t an option.
"Because we come from low-income families ourselves, we can't give them money," the high school senior says.
That was the starting point for their invention: a solar-powered tent that folds up into a rollaway backpack. The girls and 10 others from their high school had never done any hands-on engineering work before, but with the help of YouTube, Google, and trial-and-error, they got it done.
But they've made it, and it's a success story that could make a really big impact. Already featured by local TV stations and Ryan Seacrest on his morning radio show, the team wants their accomplishment to encourage other girls to pursue STEM careers.