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Team Featuring ODU Alumnus, Student and Faculty Named Finalist in International MIT Solve Competition

By Betsy Hnath

A team with its roots in Old Dominion University has been selected as one of 15 finalists from a pool of over 1,150 applicants in the international MIT Solve Challenge.

The Green Stream Flood Monitoring and Warning System, a collaboration between the University's Center for Coastal Physical Oceanography and Green Stream Technologies, Inc., proposes using street-level, low-cost sensors to collect real-time flood data.

The information could help coastal cities like Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach develop municipal alert systems, mobile apps, online dashboards, warning signs and barriers.

The Green Stream Flood Monitoring and Warning System aims to reduce losses and threats to safety in daily life and during major flood events.

The team will now compete for a share of over $650,000 when it pitches to a panel of judges in New York City on Sept. 22-23.

Green Stream Technologies, a Norfolk-based startup, was founded by ODU alumnus Jim Gray, who earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1985.

When looking for his first employee, Gray went to his alma mater. He hired current ODU senior and cyber security major Mouhamed Rebeiz to help code the flood sensor platform.

Gray also tapped ODU professors Larry Atkinson, Eminent Professor and the Samuel and Fay Slover Professor of Oceanography in the ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences department; and Tal Ezer, professor of ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences, for their expertise on the science of sea-level rise to help the team address flooding and resilience in Hampton Roads.

According to the project website page, by keeping citizens flood aware "drivers can select safer routes. Businesses, government/military installations, and schools can decide when to close. Citizens and businesses can move equipment. People can keep tabs on property and loved ones from afar."

The sensors, placed on roadways or nearby creeks, monitor the surface below. They report not only flooding, but the depth of the water at each location.

Insurance companies can use flooded roadway data to settle claims and detect fraud.

Dozens of Green Stream sensors were already installed in Virginia and North Carolina and used in the "Catch the King Tide" event to monitor water levels at the highest tide of the year. A similar "King Tide" event is planned for this October.

The group is currently streaming water level data to North Carolina's Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network.

MIT Solve is a competition for innovative solutions to global challenges. Teams from around the world submitted their solutions in four challenge areas: Coastal Communities, Work of the Future, Frontlines of Health, and Teachers and Educators.

The Coastal Communities challenge is focused on Hampton Roads and backed by RISE, a non-profit organization charged with using Norfolk's HUD grant to fund resilience solutions.

MIT Solve, RISE and Old Dominion University co-hosted a Solveathon in June, bringing education, industry and nonprofit sectors together to address resilience challenges faced by Hampton Roads.

According to the MIT Solve website, over 30 percent of humanity lives near coasts, ranging from massive cities to key ports and naval bases to small islands.

"The effects of climate change - including sea level rise, stronger storms, ocean warming and acidification - are causing increasing negative impacts on these communities' lives and livelihoods," the project website page said.

To support the team, navigate to https://solve.mit.edu/challenges/coastal-communities/solutions/3505

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