Skip to main content

What If Your Best Ideas Came from an Eighth Grade Robotics Team?

Saving money and water at school is no longer up to the administration alone. Students from Shadow Hills Middle School in Palmdale may have uncovered a game-changing smart water solution for the entire school district.

It started with a challenge based around the theme of “Hydrodynamics.” The Falconbots are Shadow Hills’ robotics team, and are part of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League. They compete to develop solutions to real-world problems and present their research.

In search of a water-related problem, eighth-graders Ashley Gonzalez, Nasim Lyew, Nathan Maldonado, and Stephanie Suadi – the “Super Geeks” – set to work. Under the supervision of their advisor, Scott Merrill, they began researching leak detection technology.

This research led them to smart-water metering systems, and in particular, HydroPoint and its Water Compass and WeatherTRAK systems. After some initial delving, they learned that:

  • The Palmdale school district is the third-largest consumer of water in Palmdale
  • The Palmdale school district pays more than $835,000 a year in water bills
  • The district could save between $191,271 and $399,174 by adopting smart water metering
  • The district could reduce 23% to 48% of its water usage
  • The savings generated would pay for the installation and maintenance of the smart irrigation system

The school district is paying close attention. The students compiled their research and presented it to administrators, including the superintendent and principal. They even spoke with HydroPoint team members and Palmdale district officials, including the chief business officer.

Their goal is to get the district to adapt HydroPoint’s Water Compass and WeatherTRAK systems in order to save money. They’ve hypothesized that the district will save hundreds of thousands of dollars since the system will monitor for any irregularities and send alerts in real-time, so leaks don’t go undetected. Also, through WeatherTRAK, the system will automatically shut off when it rains, leading to a massive reduction in water waste. The hardware receives a daily weather signal through AT&T’s 3G network, so the controller obtains a precise measure on the volume of water to use.

HydroPoint’s Regional Vice President Charles Zahar has collaborated with the students on their work, and offered a pilot unit for the team to see how the technology works first-hand.

As for the Super Geeks – they recently competed with the Falconbots in the FIRST Lego League Regional Qualifier and came in 1st for robot design and 2nd for robot performance. Next, they’re off to the Regional Championship for the entire southern California region. Good luck and go Falconbots!