SIERRA VISTA — By day, Paris Poor is a dedicated city employee. By night, she is a passionate problem solver who may have come up with a solution to living in a post-pandemic world.

The 33-year-old Poor, an administrative secretary for the sports division for Sierra Vista’s Leisure and Library Services division and a junior in Arizona State University’s online electrical engineering program, was recently awarded a $500 scholarship for devising “a moonshot solution” that could help people keep safe from contaminants in public spaces. Poor said that could be accomplished through the use of aerosolized nanorobots. A moonshot solution is described as a solution that is ambitious and exploratory.

According to an article in ASU News, “Poor participated in the university’s five-day virtual “Reimagine Smart Cities in a post-COVID World” engineering, technology and product design event held from Jan. 4-8. The event was facilitated by industry professionals at Infosys, a global leader in next-generation digital services and consulting, and faculty from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. Students had the opportunity to formulate and pitch ideas for employing high-tech devices and systems to better protect people in urban areas from pandemics.

“During Innovation Week, Poor learned key elements of design processes that companies use to formulate ideas for moonshot projects alongside other problem-solvers, engineers and designers. The ultimate goal was to imagine and pitch new technologies, environments, infrastructures and services that can make cities smart enough to keep us safe and healthy.”

Event judges, according to the ASU News story, gave Poor and Ainee Ali, a graduate student in the learning design and technology program in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, this year’s Best Moonshots Solutions prize. Poor however, is the only undergraduate student to win the honor.

“I didn’t even know it was a competition when I joined, but it was really nice to get money from it,” said Poor, who used her prize to pay off last semester’s tuition at ASU.

At her office in Sierra Vista this week, Poor explained how she came up with her moonshot solution. She said she realized that people have been trying to work out ways to gather in these pandemic times. Virtual meetings, protective barriers and, of course, social distancing were solutions to being able to get together during COVID-19.

“I found as I was talking to people that they really didn’t want the alternatives, they really just wanted just to be able to gather again — experience concerts and museums with people, strangers and family,” Poor said.

And so began Poor’s research into a solution that could bring people back together without the barriers, the social distancing, etc. She said she stumbled on scientific journals and research papers that spelled out a possible solution.

“I found a bunch of these great scientific journals and research papers from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) students and other researchers around the world about using nanorobots in medicine and in the environmental world to detect and clean up pollutants,” she said. “There are ideas from all these different fields and there are actually working prototypes from a lot of them.

“ ... I found if you put all these projects together you could create aerosolized nanorobots that you could collect data from and that you could use to purify the air so you could be in an environment and not worry about contaminants.”

Poor explained that the nanorobots are built on colloids, which are particles that can be suspended in air and liquid indefinitely. She said a canister could be used to aerosolize the nanorobots manually, or a “contraption” like the plug-ins used in a bathroom, could release the aerosolized nanorobots into the air. Once that happens, data could be collected from the released nanorobots and that could help with identifying activated carbon in the atmosphere.

Her idea, Poor said, would mainly be used for indoor spaces by industrial and commercial entities.

According to the ASU News article, “Poor says nanobot technology now being created and tested for use in medical and environmental fields shows promise for being capable of detecting, identifying, locating and eliminating airborne contaminants — which would include cleaning particles of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 out of the air. She hopes to contribute to research in that area.”

Meanwhile, those who work with Poor in the Leisure and Library Services division in the city are in awe of her accomplishments.

“Paris is extremely intelligent and talented. I am very proud of her,” said Laura Wilson, director of the division. “She is innovative and thoughtful about how she approaches challenges in pursuit of solutions. She does that in her current role with the city as well. She is always thinking of others and how she can add little details to her surroundings that make all of us, and our customers, feel like we were thought of and cared about.

“Her aerosolized nanorobots solution is a perfect example of her process and how observant and sensitive she is to the thoughts and feelings of others and how she looks to positively impact their experiences,” Wilson added. “I am not surprised at all that she has received such high recognition. She is completely deserving of it. We are extremely lucky to have her as a part of our team.”

Poor’s direct boss John Healy echoed Wilson.

Paris is an incredible asset to the city and specifically the Sports Division,” Healy said. “She is of many talents, and it is impressive to watch her pursue her love and goals in engineering.

“Paris is always willing to assist. From using her incredible artistic ability to create props, posters and signs for city events to her creative solutions to our registration platform, Paris is an invaluable member of the Leisure Services team. Working full time and going to school, Paris is one hard-working person.

“About once a week, I’ll ask what she is working on, and the answers make me scratch my head — calculus, nanoparticles, circuits and more ... ”