hydro schematicTeam FSINGENIUM from the Navarra region of Spain won the FIRST® LEGO® League Global Innovation Award in June 2018 for the HYDRO DYNAMICS season.

Their invention, HYDROBALL, is a soil measuring device. Buried in the ground for years, it can read how much water is available for crops to absorb.  It then transmits this data via an app, which farmers use for watering crops.

After participating in Global Innovation Award, a Spanish television network interviewed the team. The TV publicity opened many doors and their coach says the kids are embracing the attention with ‘astonishing calm.’

Door Number One – A National Microsoft Campaign

Microsoft Spain talked to FSINGENIUM about their Accelerator of Ideas innovation campaign. The requirement? A great project with a hook that would lead to innovation and inspire others. Check!

Being a FIRST® team solidified this opportunity. “Another group had actually been pre-selected to take part,” said Team Coach Fernando Sarría. “After we spoke to a Microsoft campaign spokesperson about the FIRST Core Values, they chose FSINGENIUM.”

Microsoft’s Supporting Projects that Will Change the Future video featuring the team.

Door Number Two – Partnership Opportunities  

The team began working with the Public University of Navarra earlier in the season. With the success of HYDROBALL, the university has since hired an intern that will help the team develop a procedure and standardize all their field testing.  If the data is wrong, entire crops can be ruined so having a partnership to support this research is essential.

“Interest from local and national media made all these experiences possible,” said Coach Caridad Santamaria. “We don’t have time to hunt for these opportunities, but we have been able to make the most of the ones we have. The interview and the ad campaign serve as our calling cards. They attract investors, as well as other opportunities for outreach.”

If new companies are looking to invest in the HYDROBALL, the team uses numbers from their original marketing plan. The research and market analysis they prepared for the Global Innovation Award are instrumental – they tell a powerful story of how this device could impact farmers.

talk in the autonomous university of barcelona2
The team illustrates their design process during a presentation at the University of Barcelona; they openly share their robot designs to help other teams.

The team has been developing prototypes of the HYDROBALL, as well as a HYDROSTICK to accommodate for different situations.

The team set aside $5,000 of their Global Innovation Award prize money to research new materials. Because clay is porous, the team developed a clay sphere to house the sensors. However, they found a problem – moisture in the air on the day the clay is baked impacts how the HYDROBALL measures water in the soil.

Maintaining long-term battery life is another design challenge the team is tackling. Transmitting data via Wi-Fi takes a lot of energy, and many farms also don’t have access to Wi-Fi. For these reasons, the team put a priority on coming up with solutions for these challenges. They are investigating networks with low energy consumption and testing sensors that have a sleep/wake cycle.

Additionally, the team has begun conversations with the Spanish National Research Council, a research agency. The council is interested in working with the team on prototype development.

For his work as a FIRST LEGO League coach, FSINGENIUM Coach Fernando Sarría (pictured center during the team interview for this post) was nominated for the Civic Excellence Award of Navarra in late Fall 2018.

The team expects their prototype to be complete in Spring 2020. Their goal is for it to cost only $25, undercutting their closest competitor’s price by 98%!

Team FSINGENIUM is expecting to receive an invention model utility patent from Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas, the Spanish trademark office, for a portion of the HYDROBALL design. The Government of Navarra has also provided a $150,000 grant to aid the team.

Congratulations, team!

Stay up to date by visiting the FSINGENIUM website (the team is teaching themselves HTML as they code and build this site) or follow them on Twitter @fsingeniumTEAM.

In the team’s next post, FSINGENIUM will share how FIRST has opened the door to talking with teams around the world.

Thank you to our FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award Sponsors!