Those kids with their laptops could just change the world!
Millennials are the first generation to have the best of technology at their fingertips. Some are using it to tackle projects in a world of aging and often inadequate infrastructure.
With climate change overwhelming drainage systems all over the world, for instance, a downpour can lead to flooding. South Africa, Japan, and the United States have recently seen flooding in areas with infrastructure that was designed for more moderate weather patterns. Storm water drains simply can’t keep up with the volume of water in a climate worsened by fossil fuel emissions and general climate change.
The Department of Civil Engineering at McMaster University in Canada in 2015 released a report in the Journal of Hydrology. Author James D. Miller wrote:
“A number of future climate projections indicate a likelihood of increased magnitude and frequency of hydrological extremes for many regions around the world. The urban storm-water management infrastructures are designed to mitigate the effect of extreme hydrological events. Changes in extreme rainfall events will have a significant implication on the design of stormwater management infrastructures.”
Startups, millennials and entrepreneurship
Brazil is a country facing such challenges. And even if there was a solution, the country would not be able to afford to implement it.
Enter two engineers based in São Paolo, Brazil: Diogo Tolezano and Pedro Godoy. They have initiated a startup called Pluvi.On. They have developed a weatherproof tool that can measure rain and predict if floods are expected — a type of rain gauge called a Pluvi. If a flood is forecast, preventative measures can be taken or warnings can be given, based on the data recorded by the device.
They outlined the dire situation in Brazil and provided some insight into their own motivation:
“….today approximately 30 million Brazilians are directly impacted by floods every year. And there is a projection…. by 2030 a loss of US$4 billion...lost homes, furniture, vehicles…”
The startup is being assisted financially through the Red Bull Basement hacker residency. The residency develops projects that offer solutions to issues in urban spaces. They assist with spaces to create, mentorships and more.
Their foresight and funding of projects for engineering startups will help empower other millennials endeavoring to create technologies that could greatly help the globe.
Tolezano and Godoy were determined to act rather than wait for their government to do something. They decided to develop the technology themselves and get extra backing from Red Bull to implement the technology and test it out. The engineers told Red Bull:
“When we look at the impact of floods, it really is a relevant problem. We wanted to use our knowledge to make a positive impact on cities. If we don’t get our hands dirty, it’ll take a long time before anything happens.”
They developed the rain gauge and opened it up to the public as an open source project. Now members of the public can find all the information necessary to create a Pluvi of their own.
The gauge is made up of a plastic box that allows rain in. The water goes into a plastic bucket that measures the amount of rain coming down. Using an ESP chip inside the box, data is generated and sent to the cloud, ready to be perused. The tilts of the plastic bucket inside the enclosure are measured, the number that is generated assists with the flood predictions.
In the two months of the Red Bull residency, they built the enclosure, put in a data integration platform, and ensured that they could get the data forwarded to the people who needed it most.
When their first prototype debuted the entire setup cost US$190. This was subsequently reduced to US$130. Development of the fourth prototype only cost US$50. Thanks to these inventive, proactive and community-spirited men, a network of 20 gauges around the city are generating and uploading data.
Being an entrepreneurial engineer is within reach. Starting with very little, as Tolezano and Godoy have shown, improvements to one’s immediate community are possible.
Diogo Tolezano said:
“The idea is to have real time information. So, as soon as the rain starts we can identify its behaviors and patterns, and then, mainly according to its intensity, we can let the population know with some time in advance.”
Red Bull, www.redbull.com/za-en/projects/red-bull-basement.
“The Impacts of Urbanisation and Climate Change on Urban Flooding and Urban Water Quality: A Review of the Evidence Concerning the United Kingdom.” Egyptian Journal of Medical Human Genetics, Elsevier, 8 July 2017, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214581817300435.