|Students invent new way to monitor water quality|
February 5, 2007
by dense vegetation, and only a few feet in depth, a remote part of Lake
Merced was impossible to test for water quality. San Francisco Public
Utilities Commission technicians could neither access the area known
as Impound Lake in their boats nor could they get an undisturbed sample
if they waded in. SF State civil, mechanical and electrical engineering students collaborated on the perfect solution to the problem and successfully
retrieved the important data that will help the city assess its emergency
Civil engineering students Carolina Silva, Atsede Ayalew, Terrence Gilfillian and Doan Ho used a GPS and remote-controlled boat built by mechanical engineering student Muhammad Endarsyahreza to carry an instrument that determined and recorded the temperature, depth and pH and oxygen levels at the deepest point of Impound Lake. The boat was built under the direction of Mike Holden, assistant professor of engineering and faculty advisor of SF State's Autonomous Vehicle Lab. Electrical engineering student Bruce White integrated the sensor and the analysis software.
"I was impressed with the students' creativity and diligence in finding a way to capture the data," said Greg Bartow, integrated water resources manager at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. He added that if the city lost all or part of its water lines due to an earthquake, fire or other disaster, the data collected would help determine if the lake water would be suitable to use for emergency purposes such as firefighting or washing down streets.
"This was an exciting project to me because the information we collected was so important," said Silva, the project manager.
The students dubbed their system AIMER (Autonomous Immediate Monitoring for Emergency Resources). The data collecting instrument the students used was a Hach Hydrolab MS4a MiniSonde, which measured the four parameters simultaneously and was on loan from Hach Environmental, an environmental monitoring systems company.
Jeff Salter, the southwest territory manager at Hach, said he had no reservations about lending the students a piece of his company's equipment valued at $5,000. "In talking to the students I got the feeling that we shared a common view that the goal to protect and manage the world's water resources is an important responsibility," he said. Salter added that it was an excellent opportunity to help future civil engineers understand how to implement a plan that leads to informed water resource decisions.
The students also received an early introduction into how often engineers must work with the general public. Silva and Doan answered the questions of curious onlookers and met a local man fishing from the remote spot where they needed to launch the equipment.
"The man had fished there for many years and was upset that we would scare the fish away," said Silva. "It took us awhile but we finally managed to explain what we were doing and why it was so important."
"This project demonstrated the true spirit of collaboration not only between engineering students, but also between the SF State faculty and public agencies," said Elahe Enssani, associate professor of civil engineering. "It perfectly illustrated how valuable our practice of looking for student projects in the community is."
-- Denize Springer
1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132 (415) 338-1111