School students construct world’s first FLOBOT to save Bengaluru’s endangered lakes

This wonderful news comes to us from Bengaluru in India.

Back in 2016 , two tenth graders, Pranav Shikarpur and Siddharth Vishwanath decided to do something about the Kaveri dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. They followed their teacher’s instruction and learnt about the deteriorating conditions of Bengaluru’s lakes.

Pranav says, ”In 1960 we had 262 lakes but now we have only 81 lakes of which 32 are considered live lakes.”

A survey that was conducted by the Environmental Management & Policy Research Institute categorized over 1518 water bodies in Bengaluru with over 65 attributes. This survey found that 85% of the city’s water bodies were severely polluted.

With this in mind the two students began work on a prototype that could analyze the constituents of the lake in a search for better awareness.

Pranav recalls, “We began with a breadboard prototype where it worked in a lake-like scenario. We showed that our idea worked and with proper implementation, it could be resourceful.”

Thus, the two students went back to the drawing board, aided by Dr T V Ramachandra, who was a professor at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru. Dr Ramchandran is a part of IISC’s Energy and Wetland Research Group and it has been at the forefront of decoding pollution in and around the lake city through his participation in many different research groups. With his help the students built a full-fledged device, the FLoBot.

Pranav says,”FLoBot 1.0 was a device we quickly put together, hence it looked crude. In the middle was a buoy with an electronic box at the top and the various sensors at the bottom.”

He continues, “The best part about the 1.0 was that it could send SMS of the collected data to anyone and could also upload the information to the cloud. We also had a local app that could control the robot wirelessy.”

The FLoBoT happened to be the world’s first mobile data acquisition monitors that could be deployed in any water body to take information like electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH and other parameters.

The students wanted to better the device and make it smaller and more aesthetic. The team raised $3,500 through the means of crowdfunding to build an updated model and started work on it. Kishore Babu was the product designer and he thought of a very beautiful design and it came to be known as the FLoBoT 2.0. The major upgrade of the device was that it weighed a reduced 6kg only. With this the team tested as many as 8 lakes.

Organisations like ATREE  have helped the team and have used the FLoBOT in reviving lakes and water bodies that were once abandoned. The collected data is very useful in analyzing the problems of the lake and could be a precursor of lake cleaning.

For their innovation with the FLoBoT the two students were selected for the Ashoka Youth Venture. Out there Pranav says that the venture helped them to harness particular skills that would help them as changemakers.

Image source: Twitter

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