Today, we’re catching up with the accomplished inventors from Team FSINGENIUM from the Navarra region of Spain. The team won the FIRST® LEGO® League Global Innovation Award in June 2018 for their invention from the HYDRO DYNAMICSSM season, HYDROBALL. HYDROBALL is a soil measuring device that can be buried in the ground for years and read how much water is available for crops to absorb. It then transmits the data via an app, which farmers use for watering crops.
What’s new with the HYDROBALL?
The project has leveled up. Right now, we are in the laboratory that we have created exclusively for the development of this project, as well as hiring personnel for the development of the project. In this laboratory we create our own electronic boards, use soldering irons, have our own ceramic furnace, we test different components for the HYDROBALL, and we have been able to develop our own sensors that do not exist on the market.
The last time we spoke, you mentioned that you were trying to find a material with adequate porosity. Have you been able to solve it?
The team illustrates their design process at the University of Barcelona, late 2018
It has been a hard process and more complicated than we thought when we initially came up with this project. Now that we have a ceramic kiln, we are prototyping our own clays for testing. As we can only make ceramics in very small numbers, we are working with a German factory that is doing the same as us, but on a larger scale.
How is the development of the HYDROBALL’s mobile app progressing?
We continue to develop it, but first we have to keep developing the sensors. Our goal is for the product to be ready for commercialization in 2022.
With all the progress you have made, do you think this product is affordable for the general public?
The estimate we have is 80 Euros, which is equivalent to around $100 USD. Right now, the specialized market offers certain solutions using sensors that cost approximately $1000 USD.
The idea is that it is not only the farmer who has access to the HYDROBALL, but also that the general public can use it for their own gardens or potted plants. We are also already designing the user experience and have mockups of the packaging.
Do your youngest new team members also help with the development of the HYDROBALL?
From left to right – original team members Mario, David, and Alejandro. They continue to mentor the team.
The younger youth members are developing their own project for the RePLAYSM season. We aged out of the program but continue to mentor the current team as well as continue our education beyond high school. Each of us has specialized in a particular aspect of the HYDROBALL project and continue to develop it. We believe this project is a success for all of us, and we consider ourselves very lucky to be able to develop it further.
How do you finance the project?
We have grants from the Navarra government to develop this project, and we have also just received a local grant. The plan is to eventually get more funding within the European Union. We already have a company interested in marketing this product in Latin America when it is ready.
We’re excited to continue to monitor HYDROBALL’s development! Does your team have an invention from the FIRST® GAME CHANGERSSM powered by Star Wars: Force for Change season that they want to share with the world? There’s still time to get your team involved in this season’s FIRST LEGO League Innovation Project or the FIRST® Innovation Challenge presented by Qualcomm for FIRST® Tech Challenge and FIRST® Robotics Competition teams.