These Young Innovators are Solving Global Water Challenges

Twenty Innovative Water Solutions from the 2018 FIRST® LEGO® League Global Innovation Award Semi-Finalists

Jun 07, 2018 By FIRST Staff




FIRST President Donald E. Bossi meets with FIRST LEGO League team “LEGO Legion” at FIRST Championship Detroit.

FIRST President Donald E. Bossi meets with FIRST LEGO League team “LEGO Legion” at FIRST Championship Detroit.

A travel device that cleans produce. An app that helps families conserve shower water. A kit that tests ocean water quality on-site. These are just some of the innovative solutions to real-world challenge that the 20 FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award Semi-Finalists have invented this past year through hands-on, project-based learning challenges involving the human-water cycle.

Global Innovation Award competing teams vie for a top prize of $20,000 USD to continue work on their inventions. Nominations for this award come from over 80 countries. Competing teams must consider possible barriers to implementation, document the evaluation of their invention, and validate their design with STEM professionals.

The 20 Semi-Finalist teams will be inducted as FIRST LEGO League Innovation Ambassadors at the eighth annual Global Innovation Award ceremony on June 21 in San Jose, California. Students will also attend workshops on intellectual property, entrepreneurship, design thinking, product development and implementation, marketing, and innovative thinking.

Read about the 20 Semi-Finalist teams and their innovations below. Get to know these young inventors on June 21 by attending the Global Innovation Award ceremony in San Jose or watching online via Twitch, starting at 4 pm P.T.

2018 Global Innovation Award Semi-Finalists

Team: Aqua Allies, Excelsior, Minnesota, USA
Invention: D.A.V.I.D. Buoy
E. coli is a dangerous bacterium found in lake water. The D.A.V.I.D. (Deployable Aquatic Versatile Intelligent Device) is a remote, solar-powered buoy that automatically tests lake water for E. coli. D.A.V.I.D. uses a cutting-edge test technology and inexpensive electronics to make testing and wireless reporting reliable and cost effective. D.A.V.I.D.’s process speed and accuracy (over currently lengthy 3-4 manual tests) will keep swimmers safe and decrease the false positives that reduce recreational time and hurt local businesses.

Team: Brick Force, Durango, Colorado, USA
Invention: Quadcopter LiDAR Remote Flow Analyzer (QLRFA)
Using water flow data, water managers make the decisions on how water can be used and directed to people. Currently, data collection is manual, sometimes dangerous, and unreliable. The Quadcopter LiDAR Remote Flow Analyzer (QLRFA) is a remote controlled, aerial drone that analyzes bathymetry (underwater topography) to aid in the remote collection of flow data. It uses computer modeling and LiDAR to improve water flow.

Team: Brick Torrent, Draper, Utah, USA
Invention: KnowFlow
Water damage caused by leaky water pipes and valves results in around $2.5 Billion in insurance claims each year and affects 3.7 million people with water damage to their homes or businesses. The KnowFlow is an affordable leak prevention system that easily attaches to water pipes (no plumbing required) and detects water flow by listening. It tracks individual water habits and when discrepancies are noticed, alters your mobile device via the KnowFlow App.

Team: Coyote Pups Gamma Team, Old Town, Maine, USA
Invention: Aquamergency Water Purifier
The Aquamergency Water Purifier is a personal backpack purification system which provides a reliable source of clean water, targeted at helping people affected by natural disasters. The backpack uses a stainless-steel mesh screen, ceramic filter, charcoal filter, and a germicidal ultra-violet (UV) light to kill viruses, parasites, and bacteria. It also removes organic contaminants and debris and can filter water at a rate of approximately one gallon every four minutes!

Learn More About the  FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award

Team: D++, Tel Aviv, Israel
Plastic water bottles stored or exposed to temperatures greater than 104°F for longer than 15 minutes release a toxic chemical that contaminates the drinking water. The PLASTICKER is a disposable sticker placed on water bottle labels that changes color when the water has prolonged exposed high temperatures. The non-toxic thermochromic liquid crystal on the sticker changes color at the exact temperature when the plastic begins leaching chemicals.

Team: FEDAC Mix Wolvineers, Girona, Spain
Invention: Flood Preventer
Presently, there isn't a method or system on the market to detect and avoid sewage pipe jams other than educational measures on what is inappropriate waste for pipes. The Flood Preventer is a water level sensor-based system that detects the rise of sewage water and notifies waste treatment companies of potential sewage pipe problems to avoid future catastrophes.

Team: FOG Busters, Richland, Washington, USA
Invention: FOG Buster 86Restaurants use grease traps to treat their wastewater. Food scraps, oil, and grease (FOG) are dumped
into these traps. There are no federal regulations on restaurant FOG disposal and it is an increasing problem for aging sewer systems. When cleaning soap meets FOG, it emulsifies and pulls the unwanted FOG through the trap and clogs the sewer system. The FOG Funnel Inceptor, FOG Buster 86, grabs the soapy water and transports it with draining water, before the soap can emulsify with the FOG and clogs.

Team: FSINGENIUM, Sarriguren, Spain
Invention: HYDROBALL
FSINGENIUM team comes from a region in Spain that is an agricultural zone. The team’s innovative solution, The HYDROBALL, is a tennis-ball sized water conservation tool that gets buried in the soil and precisely measures how much water is available for crops. It provides the user with real-time data via smartphone technology. With a dual sensor and battery life of 7-years, the HYDROBALL measures both the moisture in the soil and the tension with which the land retains water – that is, the amount of water available for the plant.

FIRST LEGO League team “FSINGENIUM” pose in the pits at FIRST Championship Detroit.

FIRST LEGO League team “FSINGENIUM” pose in the pits at FIRST Championship Detroit.

Team: FVCA C3s, Neenah, Wisconsin, USA
Invention: Solar Safe
Millions of people become sick or die each year from polluted drinking water. The FVCA C3’s addressed the shortage of clean drinking water with Solar Safe, a solar-driven purification system that cleans water through condensation and copper. The device floats on bodies of water to wick water into the condensation chamber for purification; it even works on a small, polluted puddle of water!

Team: LEGO Legion, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Invention: UVeggie
International travelers are warned not to have contact with tap water in foreign countries because they have no immunity to microbes in the water. Local produce is rinsed with this same contaminated water. The UVeggie is a salad-spinner-like appliance that uses UVC-wavelength light and water to kill microbes and clean produce, so travelers and volunteer/aid workers can eat healthy and enjoy fresh produce. The UVeggie comes in both a motorized and hand-crank version and in several sizes.

Team: MH Razorbots, Mountain Home, Arkansas, USA
Invention: Venturei Effect Power Supply (VEPS)
It is important to detect water contamination quickly, and often in remote locations there is no source of power to run testing equipment. The Venturei Effect Power Supply (VEPS), is a self-contained power generating valve fitted with small, inexpensive water turbine generators. It can be installed at any point that needs power to run water quality testing equipment. The valve returns all the water used to generate power back to the water stream.

Team: Operation T.A.C. (Technology & Character), San Clemente, California, USA
Invention: SeaSafe Water Analysis Kit
Contaminated ocean water from sewer outflows and pollution results in unsafe swimming water conditions at the beach. Long lab test lead times on seawater quality results in delays in reporting to beach-goers. The SeaSafe Water Analysis Kit is an on-site ocean water test kit that puts accurate water quality results directly into the swimmer’s hands, with results in one hour!

Team: Rain Regents, Leamington, Ontario, Canada
Invention: BirdSpa
Keeping bird baths can be a health concern, encouraging the growth of harmful algae, bacteria, and disease-spreading mosquitoes in their stagnant water. The BirdSpa provides birds with a clean environment to drink and bathe. Unlike conventional bird baths, this innovation automatically cleans and replenishes water to prevent algae, mosquito, and bacteria growth, keeping birds and people safe.

Team: RevForce, Miami, Florida, USA
Invention: AWE (Atmospheric Water Extractor)
Rural schools that do not have running water rely on rainwater as their water source. The AWE (Atmospheric Water Extractor) is a solar powered, gravity-fed purification system that extracts water vapor from the air and uses cooling and condensing methods to extract clean water. AWE has no negative environmental impacts and requires little maintenance beyond changing filters annually. It can extract roughly a gallon of water per hour, yielding between 15 and 20 gallons of water per day!

Team: RoboGirls, Lexington, Massachusetts, USA
Invention: Flood Level Detection
Today, people must guess whether their well water is safe to drink after a flood in their area or rely on week-long offsite lab testing to verify its safety. The Flood Level Contaminant Detection device is inexpensive to build (less than $5) and will measure flood water level and warn the well owner of potential contaminants from the flood water.

Team: Rusty Sailors, Ventura, California, USA
Invention: Fiber Filter
Microfibers from synthetic clothing make their way from our washing machines into rivers and oceans. The Rusty Sailors’ Fiber Filter will capture microfibers at the source – the washing machine. The team uses the LG front-loading drain pump filter and special fabric from Patagonia's GUPPYFRIEND product to create their filter.

Team: St Clare Transformers 1, Staten Island, New York, USA
Invention: Artist’s Miracle
Have you ever poured paint water down the drain after using it to clean brushes? Little did you realize that you are harming the environment and your pipes. The Artist’s Miracle is a filtration method used to clean paint water by separating the paint and water, allowing the water to be reused and paint safely disposed.

Team: Super Aqua Squad, Yuma, Arizona, USA
Invention: Aqua Box
Helicopters will aerial drop water bottles when they cannot land to deliver clean water in emergency or disaster relief situations. Not all the water bottles survive the drop. The Aqua Box safely delivers bottled water to direct targets, providing immediate relief until ground support can arrive. The Aqua Box has a 92.2 percent success rate from 50 and 100 ft. drops at a speed of 60 miles per hour.

Team: The Dots, Shoreview, Minnesota, USA
Invention: DripDrop
People underestimate the amount of water that is wasted when they take a shower. The DripDrop is a smart water sensor with an accompanying mobile App that tracks water usage while you shower. Unlike current tracking devices, the DripDrop attaches directly to any standard shower head, allowing the consumer more choices over current water tracking solutions. The App’s gaming feature allows you to compete with family and friends on a private social media platform to see who can conserve the most shower water.

FIRST LEGO League team “The Dots” present to judges at FIRST Championship Detroit

FIRST LEGO League team “The Dots” present to judges at FIRST Championship Detroit

Team: Thunderbots, Sacramento, California, USA
Invention: UltraOrganix Filter
Removing detrimental pathogens and contaminants, including lead, from drinking water can prevent the spread of diseases. The UltraOrganix Filter removes bacteria and metal contaminants from water using Solar Water Disinfection in combination with all natural, low cost materials such as cilantro, shells, and charcoal in re-usable filtration bags. Common diseases prevented by UltraOrganix Filter removing bacteria, parasites, metals, and chemicals in the water include, cholera, typhoid, trachoma, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and a poisoning caused by lead, arsenic, and nitrites.

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