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Local Business with ODU Ties Is MIT Solve Challenge Finalist

By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

A local entrepreneurial business with Old Dominion University connections has been recognized for its work on coastal resilience solutions.

Green Stream Technologies, a Norfolk-based company run by ODU alumnus Jim Gray (electrical engineering '85) is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Solve Challenge finalist. Selected during an event held in New York City on Sept. 23, the 33 winners will each receive $10,000 in funding and guidance, one-on-one mentoring and business connections to a global network over the next year.

The Solve challenges bring real-world solutions to issues posed in events around the country, including health, education, technology-driven transformations and coastal communities, the category in which Green Stream presented.

Green Stream has developed sensors to monitor flooding, specifically on roadways, Gray said. At the Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography at ODU, professors Tal Ezer and Larry Atkinson, along with undergraduate student intern Muhammed Ravid, have been working to analyze data and develop the product. Ravid came through the recommendations of the Center for Enterprise Innovation at ODU, and with the connections, "the team has rounded out really well," Gray said.

The Green Stream technology grew as a solution provider to the need for flood monitoring and warning needs in Norfolk, Gray said. Since the company's inception in April 2017, sensors have been installed in Norfolk, Back Bay in Virginia Beach, and North and South Carolina.

"The goal of the project is to develop flood monitoring and warning systems based on a network of low-cost water level sensors," Ezer said. "These sensors cost a fraction of the cost of high-end sensors deployed by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and USGS (U.S. Geological Survey), so many more sensors can be installed over flood-prone streets."

Atkinson and Ezer analyze the real-time data from sensors in flooding events and provide their expertise to Green Stream on the impacts of sea-level rise, oceanic processes and flooding in the area.

Recently, Hurricane Florence provided new data for the researchers as far west as Charlotte, N.C., that will be analyzed for later use. The goal is to expand to other flood-prone regions and help give flooding information in real-time.

The Green Stream team was invited to compete in New York City after an earlier round of events, one of which took place at Slover Library in Norfolk in May. The Solveathon in May was co-hosted by Solve, which is an initiative of MIT that advances solutions from tech entrepreneurs to global issues; and RISE, a Norfolk-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping solve the pressing resilience problems facing today's coastal communities and sponsored by ODU.

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