Climate change is a concern for communities around the world. To help find ways to solve this problem with technology, EPICS at IEEE partnered with the United Engineering Foundation last year to launch an Environmental Competition.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, climate change is contributing to severe weather events such as hurricanes, floods and tornadoes, as well as prolonged drought and recurring heat waves in traditionally temperate climates.

The EPICS competition challenged students and faculty at US universities and colleges to use their engineering skills to help mitigate and address the effects of climate change in their communities. Of the 20 proposals submitted by eight institutions, 10 were approved and funded.

The competition “allows students to take an idea, a passion, and turn it from a simple prototype into a fully deployed solution,” says Stephanie Gillespie, Associate Dean of the University of New Haven College of Engineering in Connecticut. Gillespie is currently the chair of EPICS at the IEEE.

Service training gives real experience

Student teams partnered with nonprofits to learn how to make a tangible impact by developing technology solutions. Some teams work on their projects as part of an engineering curriculum or senior design project. Others use their IEEE student chapters to carry out projects.

“Working in a team with such a diverse set of engineering disciplines really provides a well-rounded engineering experience,” says Mitsu Valkifukasaki, a junior computer science student at Arizona State University and a member of the group working on the Hydration Station project. winning projects. “I’ve learned so much.”

A valuable learning experience for students has been the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams and participate in hands-on activities to apply what is taught in the classroom, according to a student experience survey. More than 93 percent said their EPICS in IEEE project helped develop their teamwork skills.

The trash robot, nitrogen-sensing drones, and other projects provided hands-on training and community experience, and helped students develop professional skills.

Here are four out of 10 projects.

Waterproof sensors that monitor flooding

A man in a red cap and a woman, both in fluorescent green vests, kneel in front of a storm sewer, holding equipment.As part of the Sunny Day Flood Project, Katherine Anarde is an Associate Professor in the Environmental, Water and Coastal Engineering Group at North Carolina State University. [right] and another researcher is installing low-cost water level sensors in storm drains.Thomas Thelen

Tidal flooding is a steadily growing problem that affects thousands of people. The extent of flooding is often unknown, leaving members of the community with little or no knowledge of what to expect, creating dangerous situations. Students at NC State University in Raleigh, along with two community volunteers, focused on providing the public with information such as the spatial and potential impacts of tidal flooding through further research and self-powered cameras.

The Electrical and Computer Engineering Senior Project Team is working with the NC Departments of Civil, Structural, Environmental, and Biological and Agricultural Engineering to implement the solution. The team plans to place hundreds of waterproof sensors in the state’s coastal cities. The sensors are designed to transmit real-time data to a secure online gateway. The hope is to provide data to communities.

“We foresee a network of such tools in the future,” says Natalie Nelson, associate professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering. “This is just the beginning.”

Drone detecting nitrogen

Two young people are standing in front of two sensor systems connected to a piece of wood. IEEE students Ye Wint Aung [left] and Shravak Shakya of Olone College demonstrate a sensor system that displays soil nitrogen levels in a box and carbon dioxide levels in a room.Shahir Alam

High concentrations of nitrogen and other gases have reduced native plant species and overall biodiversity in and around Fremont, California. Seven Ohlone College students of Fremont’s IEEE STEAM (STEM Plus Arts) club are working with two community volunteers to develop a solution. Their project DIANA uses a drone to detect the concentration of gas in the air.

The team plans to submit a final report of their findings to the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Asked about the difference between school courses and the DIANA project, Preyasi Shah, Vice President of the IEEE STEAM Club, said that school classes are much less interactive.

“In our courses, we don’t learn about real-world applications of what we’re learning,” Shah says. “You kind of have to go out and do it yourself.”

Solar Electric System for Community Garden

A man with a hat and a teenager stand in front of a garden and look at the robotic system.At the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden in Columbus, Ohio by Damon Nabrit [right] shows the participant how FarmBot works. David A. Delane

Access to fresh produce is difficult in many low-income areas. Thirty-five students and several faculty at the Ohio State University Columbus College of Engineering developed an environmentally friendly solution. The Urban Gardens for Sustainable Education and Agriculture project is a climate-resilient community garden that grows food for the community.

Working with the Nabrit Memorial Garden and South Side Family Farms, the team uses solar power and rainwater to reduce the time and money spent watering the garden.

The project includes a STEM outreach program for neighboring schools. To engage students, the Ohio State team wrote a tutorial on how to build a replica FarmBot using a standard Lego Mindstorms EV3 kit. FarmBot is an open source vegetable growing robot. He can plant seeds, collect tools, weed and water plants.

“This project has had an impact on society, mostly on children,” says Josh Williams, one of the university students working on the project.

Robot that cleans up trash

Garbage is often found in and near bodies of water, threatening wildlife, community members, and the environment in general. Six students from Arizona State University at Tempe created the Lake Litter Solutions project. The team is building a robot that can glide across a body of water and pick up debris from it before it sinks. The team has used rapid prototyping equipment to create multiple versions of Tempe and hopes to expand the solution to other communities in the Phoenix area.

Mechanical engineering student Kellen Worthington says the project gave students the opportunity to work with a community partner and “really get hands-on experience.”

“We believe that students can make a difference, and this experience has a positive impact on their learning, making the next generation of engineers stronger, more empathetic and aware of the impact they can have with technology.”

Jessica Maschino, another mechanical engineer, says the EPICS program “helps you put into practice what you learn in the classroom.”

“This project will result in cleaner lakes, parks and golf courses,” adds Dakota Edwards, another mechanical engineer working on the project.

EPICS influenced by IEEE

More than a dozen IEEE volunteers worked with eight universities and 132 university students to complete EPICS projects as part of the IEEE environmental competition.

Other competition projects included localized food systems, a hydration station, nitrogen measurement in a local river, and improved aeration techniques for public fisheries.

It is estimated that more than 500,000 people will benefit from the 10 projects rolled out.

EPICS at IEEE is a donor-supported program through the IEEE Foundation. The program provides funding, support, mentoring, and visibility for engineering projects in four major community improvement categories: access and ability, environment, education and outreach, and social services. Since 2009, EPICS at IEEE has provided university and high school students with the opportunity to work with engineering professionals and non-profit organizations to develop innovative solutions that transform communities around the world.

“We believe that students can make a difference, and these experiences have a positive impact on their learning by making the next generation of engineers stronger, more empathetic and aware of the impact they can make with technology,” says Gillespie.

If you are interested in submitting a project proposal or as a mentor, you can find out more on the EPICS in IEEE website. To keep up to date with everything related to EPICS, subscribe to his mailing list.