A team of students from the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC) in Phnom Penh recently won first place in the Rainfall category for producing a technology that can sensor rainfall.
After their announced win in Laos on April 5 by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), Kiripost spoke with the five-member team at ITC, which spent about 15 weeks working on the Spinning Bucket Rain Gauge that won them $5,000.
During the interview, the team said that the gauge can be placed in areas to collect data on why a certain area is flooded and where the flooded water may be from, so that it can provide data to authorities to enable them to take measures to prevent disaster.
Chork Vuthy, a fresh graduate, and Dos Channheng, a Year 5 student at ITC’s hydropower department, joined two other students, Chea Pheng Ou and Taing Chaileng, of electricity and electronics at ITC, to create the gauge, which is inspired by the ancient Cambodian water wheel.
They were separated into different tasks to work with Vuthy handling data rainfall analysis because he is knowledgeable and experienced. Chaileng was responsible for coding, Channheng worked on data and research, and Pheng Ou was responsible for mechanical aspects.
The team was led by teacher Seng Theara, who served as a key person in the Internet of Things (IoT) and electronics.
Vuthy said that the work was stressful and difficult as some components, including motors, chips, and Integrated Circuits (IC), were not available in Cambodia, so they had to purchase them from abroad.
He added that some available components needed to be designed to fit and transform into their own unique and masterpiece.
“All proposed ideas are always passed to the teacher as the leader because he could give comments and advise us to update on what we have thought regarding this innovation. He let us do it by ourselves and he just waited to see any technical checks,” Vuthy said.
Pheng Ou said, “We have ideas with innovations that can solve any challenges with our society, and it fits with our major, so we want to produce any achievement and work that can be left to our seniors as well.”
The team spent about 15 weeks completing the gauge and at times slept in the ITC laboratory when technical errors occurred that needed a quick solution as the deadline approached.
During the assignment, the team met and talked many times, and sometimes got embroiled in arguments after finding many concepts had not worked.
The gauge has two buckets. Rainwater in each bucket is released when it reaches the target volume of water, for example, 8ml or 6.23ml depending on the model of rain gauge.
They said they discovered some problems with the rain gauge as water spilled out of the buckets and, during heavy rain, the buckets switched too fast so they could not release all of the water.
These problems affect the accuracy of the rain gauge, so to solve them they brainstormed some ideas.
They came up with the concept of a water wheel that has six buckets rotated 360 degrees. Each bucket contains 7ml of rainwater, equal to 0.22mm of rainfall. With this concept, the water in each bucket can release all of the water and work well, even during heavy rain.
They learned that current rainfall data collection faces some communication problems due to the low network connection during rain or the location of the rain gauge, and they need to travel to the rain gauge to collect the data.
To solve this problem, they came up with LoRa, which is a wireless platform of IoT that can send data to a long distant station up to 10km or more away, depending on the type of LoRa they have chosen.
They added that by using LoRa, they can send data from the gauge to the station, which has a strong wifi connection. After that the station publishes data to a cloud and displays the monitoring. So, users can access the data directly from the cloud.
More modern and interesting
Theara, their teacher, said he is happy to see the improvement of the students in Cambodia, and also the technology that was used during the MRC competition.
He added that after his students won the prize, they should also continue to improve the product.
Theara said that they may study more on accuracy to also attract interests from others, such as the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology and the MRC. He added that the gauge, if compared to ones made in Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, is more modern and interesting.
“As a team, they also committed that they will continue to finish it 100 percent to show others that not only developed countries can produce such innovation, but countries like Cambodia can too,” Theara said.
The students are using their knowledge to help society in the future by working as a team and individuals to devise multiple ideas while researching water resources, clean water systems, both under and on the ground, automatic electricity systems in the agricultural sector and other mechanical electricity to respond to what people need in daily life.
Commenting about the students’ innovations, Santi Baran, MRC Chief Strategy and Partnerships Officer, said the equipment provides an invaluable contribution to the Mekong River, with tributaries lacking sufficient sensor equipment in some parts, while elsewhere, they may rely on equipment that is costly to maintain.
Baran added, “We knew it had to be the youth that’s empowered with all the innovations in their hands that can really make a difference, if we give them an opportunity. And no one can do a better job than the youth that are here today. You showed that Mekong people can do this technology ourselves, here on Mekong soil.”