Research team led by Wayne State engineering personnel advances to Erie Hack finals

eriehack_aravaA research team mentored by Leela Arava, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Wayne State University, earned a first-place finish in the semifinals of Erie Hack, a data and engineering competition in which coders, developers, engineers and water experts create solutions to challenges facing the Lake Erie watershed.

With its "Micro Buoy" concept, the group was among semifinalists from four Erie Hack regions - Buffalo, Cleveland/Erie, Detroit/Windsor, Toledo - that gathered April 13 at TechTown Detroit to determine who would advance to the finals and compete for a $100,000 prize at the Water Technology Innovation Summit on May 2 and 3 in Cleveland.

"Micro Buoy is an aquatic sensor technology that helps assess water quality in real time using a combination of nanotechnology-based sensors, microbatteries and wireless communication," said Arava, the principal investigator of technology for the team. "The challenge lies in incorporating all these intricate mechanisms into a working prototype."

The team will continue its work as one of nine groups - including another from Detroit, one from Toledo, and three each from Cleveland and Buffalo - to advance to the finals.

Erie Hack, sponsored by the Cleveland Water Alliance, is a months-long water innovation accelerator and competition focused on creating publicly accessible technology to elevate the value of clean water and foster the potential to invigorate environmental and economic vitality in the Great Lakes region. The Detroit effort was designed and coordinated by TechTown in partnership with the Healthy Urban Waters program in Wayne State's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, led by Professor Carol Miller.

The program provides participants ranging from high school students to professionals the opportunity to combine their own expertise with mentoring in order to construct data-driven solutions and pitch them to a panel of environmental, entrepreneurial and technological experts.

"Erie Hack is a great platform to disseminate laboratory research and meet with people of diverse research, technological and entrepreneurial background," said Arava. "We are pleased to have had the opportunity to participate and showcase our skills."

"We had been looking for an opportunity to transform years of our extensive research on nanomaterials and microbatteries into viable technology that can address critical water-related issues," said Nirul Masurkar, a mechanical engineering graduate student at Wayne State and captain of the Micro Buoy team. Other members included Udaypraveen Tiruvalluri, Chad Gainor and Andrew Nassif.

For more information on Erie Hack, visit

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