URI to host hackathon exploring community water quality issues

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KINGSTON, R.I., Feb. 6, 2018—Water quality problems, from contaminants to aging infrastructure, plague many communities today.

The University of Rhode Island is committed to solving these problems at a hackathon March 2-4 at Avedisian Hall, 7 Greenhouse Road, on the Kingston campus.

Students from URI and other colleges will generate ideas and design and build solutions during the first-ever WaterHacksRI. They’ll compete to win $1,000 as they develop ways to improve water quality, monitoring, communications and education.

Students must register to compete at bit.ly/whri2018.

The public—as well as students—will have a chance to offer ideas during a showcase and pitch contest from 2 to 5 p.m. on March 4, also at URI. To register for that event, visit bit.ly/whri2018.

Organizers say the availability of sensors has expanded during the last few years. The low cost of sensors and their integration with cell phones, tablets and other personal devices opens new opportunities for water quality testing. Also, new technology could connect residential areas and homes to water resource centers as they become part of “smart” communities.

“Communities can have an active role in solving their water quality issues,” says Vinka Oyanedel-Craver, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at URI and co-organizer. “It starts here, at WaterHacksRI, with these problem-solving students coming up with innovative and creative solutions that businesses could develop and market.”

The Flint, Mich. water crisis in 2014, where thousands of residents were exposed to tainted drinking water that contained lead and other toxins, catapulted water quality issues into the national spotlight. Since then, city planners, engineers and businesses have been scrambling for better ways to ensure that municipal water supplies are safe.

The keynote speaker at the hackathon will be Macky McCleary, administrator of the Rhode Island Department of Public Utilities and Carriers. He will speak from 2 to 2:30 p.m. on March 4.

McCleary was the co-founder and president of EmPower CES, a startup clean energy and green building development company. The company now markets clean energy products and services to homeowners, businesses and institutions.

For more details about WaterHacksRI, visit web.uri.edu/hackathon.

Sponsors are the National Science Foundation and the URI College of Engineering. Partners are the Social Enterprise Greenhouse, the URI Research Foundation, NorthEast Water Innovation Network, and the Startup Program Accelerator and Resource Center, or URI SPARC, a program of the University’s Business Engagement Center.