UB teams advance to ErieHack semifinals

erie hack.

BY DAVID J. HILL republished from UBNow

Release date: May 30, 2019


Two UB-affiliated teams are set to compete June 5 in Detroit in the semifinals of ErieHack 2.0, an innovative water-solutions competition that was first held two years ago.

They’re among 19 teams from around the Lake Erie basin that will be competing to advance to the June 20 finals in Cleveland, where they can win $100,000 in cash and prizes. (UB’s Extreme Comms Laboratory won second place in the finals of ErieHack 2017.)

Erie Hack 2.0, a program of the Cleveland Water Alliance, brings together researchers, designers, engineers, developers and creatives around the region to build teams and develop innovations. Teams representing Windsor, Ontario; Detroit; Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio; Erie, Pa.; and Buffalo will participate in the semifinals.

“This is the second time we’re hosting Erie Hack, and we’re expecting even better projects and ideas to emerge this year,’’ says Cleveland Water Alliance Executive Director Bryan Stubbs. “With significant challenges such as harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes, we welcome innovative thinking on how to solve them.”

The two UB teams — CazWest and Solar MAP — advanced to Detroit after placing first and second, respectively, at the Buffalo quarterfinals held April 19 as part of Sustainability Month at UB. The semifinals are taking place as part of the Sustainable Brands Conference in Detroit.

Read more about both projects below. And be sure to cast your vote for them for the People’s Choice Award by visiting the CazWest and Solar MAP team pages.

Engineering undergrads create a boat drone

A team of undergraduates representing the UB chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World created the Solar Marine Autonomous Platform, or Solar MAP, equipped with sensors to capture water quality data on any number of bodies of water, including Lake Erie.

“The autonomous aspect of the project is significant as it will allow us to pre-designate a route that the drone will then follow and collect data,” says team member Sarah Wagner, a rising junior majoring in environmental engineering.

Solar MAP is a solar panel-powered boat whose design features a dual-hull catamaran for increased stability and precision navigation. It contains myriad sensors that can collect a range of water quality data, including temperature, pH, salinity, dissolved oxygen and turbidity, among other

“We hope to be able to present the data in such a way that people of all educational levels will be able to understand the state and health of the water body’s ecosystem,” Wagner explains.

The idea formed at the start of the fall 2018 semester, when Engineers for a Sustainable World was looking for a new solar-powered project, having completed a solar-powered phone-charging station the previous semester. Wagner served as project leader, along with Solar MAP member Justin Feldis.

“We wanted to expand our project’s portfolio and were trying to think outside the box,” Wagner says. “A solar-powered boat was mentioned and we built off of that, trying to find a relevant problem that this boat could solve. We eventually reached our project’s purpose — water quality data collection that is unrestricted, unlike the field work or buoys that are typically used.”

ErieHack has proven to be a great learning experience for the team, Wagner says, adding that prior to this, they all had little to no experience with regional competitions or developing presentations for one. Several UB faculty members have worked with Solar MAP, helping them refine their presentation in preparation for the Detroit semifinals.

Alums develop "Wastewater Warehouse"

Comprised of two UB alumni, Cazenovia West — the ErieHack project is called CazWest — is a company of Buffalo innovators that developed SMS-based chatbots and analytical dashboards to help decentralize storm and wastewater data collection.

Their toolkit — called the “Wastewater Warehouse” — is an online interface populated with relevant analytics to support decision-making in Western New York’s wastewater management ecosystem, everything from discharges to infrastructure to workforce, explains Aaron Krolikowski, a 2009 UB graduate and Cazenovia West’s managing director.

“The goal of the project is to use data in ways that reduce the amount of untreated sewage and polluted runoff ending up in our local waterways,” he says.

It’s a tall order. Wastewater management across Buffalo Niagara involves 42 local governments and 42 independent sewer systems or districts, Krolikowski notes, adding that each entity manages its own wastewater infrastructure and discharge reports.

Krolikowski met John O’Brien, another member of the CazWest team and a 2015 UB graduate, during an Honors seminar in spring 2014. O’Brien was a student in Krolikowski’s Global Cities in the 21st Century class who was interested in participating in projects in the community.

As a volunteer at the University Heights Tool Library, O’Brien worked with Krolikowski on developing automated text-messaging tools to support ReTree the District. The two reconnected upon O’Brien’s return from England for graduate school and formed Cazenovia West last year.

The CazWest team got connected to this year’s ErieHack through a message from Abigail Cooke, an assistant professor of geography in the College of Arts and Sciences, who then introduced them to UB alumna Lisa Matthies-Wiza, director of Erie County’s Office of Geographic Information Services. Her office is overseeing the Stormwater Mapping Tool mini-challenge.

CazWest also received mentoring from Mary Ann Kedron, president of the Black Rock Riverside Alliance, who retired a few years ago from her post as academic administrator for the neurosurgery program in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“The Warehouse keeps evolving as we continue receiving feedback from the people that need the product the most,” Krolikowski says. It’s still early, but we’ve made good progress during the three-month Erie Hack competition.”

Funding for ErieHack Buffalo is being provided by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. Other support is also being provided by UB Sustainability and Blackstone LaunchPad by powered by Techstars.

global goals.

Sustainable Development Goals:

3. Good health and well-being: Ensuring healthy and happy lifestyles for all ages

9. Industry, innovation, and infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

14. Life below water: Conserving and managing the marine resources and oceans to promote sustainable development of our world