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Hacking the Lake

Posted April 27, 2017 3:00 PM by MaggieMc

As a Pennsylvania native, Lake Erie was always felt like our great lake—even though I grew up hours from it and other states may have a more significant claim to the lake. We learned to view the zebra mussel with horror and the lake with pride. Perhaps that’s why a mention of the newest effort to clean Lake Erie stood out to me.

Lake Erie is now taking advantage of the trend of “hackathons,” or more specifically aquahacking, that have been more popular in recent years. As NPR reports, “in the tech world, hacking conferences are happening all the time. They’re usually weekend-long competitions aimed at finding new ways to treat diseases or address social ills.”

In the case of the “Erie Hack,” the competition lasted month because the issues are so complex. On April 13, teams presented their finding and nine were selected to present their findings at the Erie Hack Innovation Summit on May 2 and 3, where they will compete for the grand prize.

The Erie Hack is intended to unite “coders, developers, engineers, and water experts” in an attempt to bring Lake Erie back to its glory days; however, not only experts were invited to participate, the hack presented an opportunity for regional high school students, college students, and professionals to collaborate.

Six core stewardship, infrastructure, and social awareness challenge statements will guide the Erie Hack by identifying the most pressing challenges the Lake Erie Basin faces. These challenge statements are expanded on more broadly in this brief [pdf].

After the semi-finals, nine teams chosen to move to the final round of competition, at the Water Innovation Summit in Cleveland, Ohio, will vie for the $50,000 grand prize and $50,000 total in smaller cash prizes and services that will help them “launch their solutions to the marketplace.”

The winner of the semifinals was ‘Micro Buoy,’ a team out of Detroit, Michigan that aimed to address harmful algal blooms and legacy pollution. The team’s mentor, Wayne State University assistant mechanical engineering professor, described their solution as an “aquatic sensor technology that helps assess water quality in real time using a combination of nanotechnology-based sensors, microbatteries, and wireless communication.”

The eight other finalists include:

  • Orbitist, a Buffalo, New York team that aims to connect communities to the value of water through a text message-based water quality data system;
  • WaterWarriors, a Cleveland, Ohio team that also hopes to connect communities to water-related issues using a specially made spectrometer that students can use to measure nutrients that lead to algal blooms and catalog them into a database;
  • Plex Net LLC, a Toledo, Ohio team that hopes to combat aging infrastructure and harmful algal blooms with a fleet of 3D printed aquatic drones;
  • Fish.io.ai, another Cleveland, Ohio team wanting to connect the community to the lake through machine learning and face-recognition software that identifies and logs fish catches;
  • ExtremeComms Lab, a Buffalo, New York-based team that ambitiously hope to connect communities to environmental issues and combat harmful algal blooms and legacy pollution through a connected network of submerged sensors that aid in early detection of harmful algal blooms;
  • Hydro Sense, another Cleveland, Ohio team, this one is battling aging infrastructure and harmful algal blooms with a floating lab that can collect and transmit water quality data to researchers working on forecasting models;
  • Water Watcher, a Buffalo, New York team that wants to help connect communities to the value of water by creating an SMS-based software that allows water users to receive updates and report issues to their utilities; and
  • Purily, a Detroit, Michigan team that also hopes to connect communities to the value of water by building a tool that helps residents track their water usage and incentivize them to reduce that usage.

These teams and many others are taking the next step toward resurrecting the health of Lake Erie, and the technologies they present could reach far beyond the Lake Erie Basin.

Image credits: @eriehack via Twitter and the University of Michigan’s Sea Grant

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Join Date: Mar 2011
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Re: Hacking the Lake

04/28/2017 10:42 AM

Sort of like that commercial where the bank guard is actually just a monitor, letting people know when a robbery is taking place.

The US Clean Water Act has done the lion's share of work toward impelling progress of cleaning up Erie. Good.

Yes, power plants still have to fight zebra mussels. Those will not go away by themselves, even if the water were fresh off a glacier.

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