Three Dublin Jerome High School students created what they say is an affordable, solar-powered robot that can monitor and remediate water pollution. They’re taking their invention to a national competition at The Ohio State University this weekend.
“We have a robot which will circumnavigate a lake and collect pollution samples from various areas across the lake,” says Ryan Ziegler, an 11th grader at Dublin Jerome High School.
The group, which also includes 12th grader Raghav Samavedam and recent graduate Jayanth Gunda, worked on their water project throughout the school year.
Samavedam says his mother encouraged him to share her passion for water quality when they visited different lakes and streams. They would often plant trees to help improve the environment.
“It becomes very apparent that simply doing this via humans is going to be very inefficient, very time-consuming and it’s not going to dynamically respond to changing pollution conditions,” says Samavedam.
Samavedam says his interest in computers spurred him to look at how they can be useful for certain water testing and remediation procedures.
The students made their robot from aluminum rods that form the foundation. Inside is a hollow space to put the necessary waterproof container, which holds electronics parts like the battery and anything else connected to the motor.
“The only difficult part I would say was making it float, but after a couple rounds of testing we realized that putting two PVC pipes on the bottom of the robot had enough buoyancy for it to make it float as well as enough maneuverability to go easily in the lake,” Gunda says.
The students used a smartphone tucked inside the robot, along with a small computer called Arduino microcontroller, to navigate across the water to collect samples.
“With this information we’re then we’re able to dispatch different robots, which use a hydroponic system to remediate water quality issues using native plants,” Ziegler says.
Ziegler says their system is also much more affordable compared to other water monitoring devices. He estimates those can cost as much as $10,000, whereas the students' system cost only $1,500.
“We think with our robot, we’re able to bring water monitoring to almost every water body with an affordable price point, which will positively impact global water quality,” Ziegler says.
The Stockholm Junior Water Prize competition will be held Saturday, June 15 at the Ohio Union. The winner will receive $10,000 and an all-expenses paid trip to Stockholm, Sweden, to compete in the international competition.