Joon ’18 designs a tool to aid flood-prone communities
Sitting among the pieces of metal and wires strewn across the Kwok Engineering Center, the final product of Joon Kim ’18’s Engineering Honors Capstone project appears unassuming. The solar-powered box he designed using the lab’s 3D printer fits in the palm of your hand, yet its contents can monitor rising water levels and harvest valuable data for communities in flood-prone areas.
The idea came to Kim following his Engineering Honors summer internship working for a water management company in his native South Korea. “The internship opened my eyes to what I want to do; that is to bring systemic improvements to our communities,” said Kim. “This project is the manifestation of it.”
Heavy rains engulf the Korean peninsula during summer months, often causing landslides and damage to infrastructure. TSPG International, the startup Kim worked with, placed sensors in the water system to monitor the rise and fall of water levels over time. Datasets from these patterns help users mitigate damage in the event of a flash flood. Kim saw an application for a similar, but smaller project here in Millville where spring rains often leave the well-worn shortcut to Schoolhouse through the Meadow impassable.
It took Kim six weeks to build the weatherproof device. In addition to the electronic work required to ensure Wi-Fi connection to send results, Kim developed a database using Python coding and MATLAB computer language. The data produces alert scores to notify users of an emergency. The information lives on ThingSpeak, an Internet of things website used for data and analytics.
Kim fulfilled his capstone requirements in the fall, but for him, the work has only just begun. He will install a solar sensor on a bridge by Lower School Pond and in the Meadow to help the facilities department keep track of water flow this spring.
“I like doing this,” said Kim. “Right now it’s purely what I want to do and what I’m passionate about.”
Kim's commitment is representative of the project-based learning taking place in the Lindsay Center for Mathematics and Science. "If you give a student the right project, they become inspired," said Terry Wardrop '73, co-director of the Engineering Honors Program. "They are desperate to make the thing work, and they learn everything they need to do a good job. The self-motivation is what is really exciting about it."