Engineers Work to Clean Up Lake Erie
Tom Spendlove posted on April 13, 2017 |
Engineers, programmers, designers and environmental experts are attending the Erie Hack event in Det...

Engineers, coders, developers and water experts are all meeting today in Detroit to work on the biggest threats facing Lake Erie. The Erie Hack is an event lasting several months focused on the challenge statements developed last year by the Cleveland Water Alliance and the Creativity and Innovation team from the NASA Glenn Research Center.

The six challenges are:

·         Mitigate Nutrient Loading and Its Environmental Impacts

·         Reduce and Remediate Urban Pollution

·         Cultivate Resilience in Water Infrastructure Systems

·         Manage Aging Water Infrastructure Systems

·         Connect Communities to the Value of Water

·         Drive the Creation of Meaningful Data

Each challenge has a problem statement and then a specific challenge for tools and solutions to combat the problem statement.

Teams from four regions (Buffalo, Cleveland/Erie, Detroit/Windsor, and Toledo) are presenting their solutions to one of the challenges and will be judged in three categories. Define will judge the teams on their creativity, viability, and impact to Lake Erie. Frame judges the entries on scalability, aesthetic design and the pitch / presentation. Implement judges the teams on execution, launchability and validation.

Data is a huge and driving part of this creative engineering challenge; making sure that teams have proper access to the wealth of water quality data that’s been generated, and making sure that whatever entries win the contest will collect and present data that is useful to the rest of the Great Lakes region. There are dozens of teams already in the system with specialties including engineering, design, business, and programming.

After today’s semifinal round in Detroit the finalists will present their refined ideas at the Water Innovation Summit on May 2 and 3 in Cleveland. The grand prize is $40,000 cash and $10,000 incubator funds. Erie Hack was inspired by 2011’s Water Hackathon sponsored by the World Bank, NASA, Microsoft and Google. Beyond the six grand challenges, the event hopes to cultivate ‘the Blue economy’, their name for the emerging business sectors working to sustainably maintain bodies of fresh water.

The Erie Hack is an ambitious event focused on my favorite goal of engineering – making the world a better place. It’s interesting that the teams are competing against each other while sharing data and also creating distinct solutions to six different problem statements. The commitment to open source data both during the competition phase and as an information dissemination tool is a promising way to push the goals of keeping the Great Lakes clean and sustainable.

(Images courtesy

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