Connecting the Real World to your Classroom  


"Being a Geekbot was extraordinary.  I was able to do engineering with my friends and have fun. "

—Maddy Wilkinson, Geekbot

ANLC Geekbots

Our Project

Problem Identification

  • brainstormed disasters that fit our team
  • haboobs
  • flooding
  • flooding fit our team
  • together found a problem
  • cars driving into flooding

After exploring different natural disasters, our team finally came up with a disaster that fit our liking. At first, we thought haboobs were a good problem to solve. But with further research, we discovered that was not the best problem for our team to solve. Additional research showed that floods looked like a problem that we could really go into depth with and we discovered multiple problems we could fix. Our team worked together and narrowed it down to cars getting stuck in road water. This is just the beginning of the depth sensor.     

After we identified our problem, we wanted to know everything there is to know about cars driving into floods. We researched lots of different websites, to come up with statistics on flooding.

Team Solution

First we collaborated as a team and thought of problems that were associated with haboobs and flooding. We wrote down as many problems we could think of until we finally came up with the problem that was right for our team. We found that flooding had the most diverse solutions.  We came up with the problem of flooding on the roads and a solution of our depth sensor. The depth sensor can prevent cars from getting stuck in the floods and other road water. Our product uses several different technologies to detect the depth of the water on the road.  The depth sensor will be able to attach to the bottom front of the car and of course it will be able to sense water on the road.


We met with Dr. Steven Ruff, a geologist at ASU, who explained TES (thermal emission spectrometer) and thermal imaging.  In his presentation, he talked about how thermal imaging can detect water and rocks.  That information was helpful because it connected to our project.  Knowing this, we concluded that the processing time was too long for us to use to effectively save lives.

Dr. Ruff did state that we could use TES to detect just water, but suggested we look into a tunable laser. This created our original design which was rather complicated and used many steps. First the thermal emission spectrometer is used to detect if there is water. The spectrometer will always be on when the car is on. The thermal emission spectrometer is a camera that measures how much heat is in something. By the temperature of the object it can see if there is water. The next system that is used (if water is detected) was the tunable laser sensor. This system uses wavelengths that travel a different speed in the open air than in the water. So when the wavelengths hit the water they measure the depth of the water.

With future research, we found a different solution. Dr. Rez started off by telling us that we should first hook up a GPS to the depth sensor so that would it would alert the driver to slow down, meaning there is a wash in the road. Dr. Rez told us we should also use a pulse ultrasound (like the ones used in hospitals) instead of a tunable laser. This works like the tunable laser but is much smaller. The pulse ultrasound sends wavelengths about 340 miles per second in open air and in the water about 1,324 miles per second. The driver would have to slow down to ensure that they enough time to exit the road. Thus we recreated the final order of systems to be first 1) GPS, 2) the thermal emission spectrometer, 3) pulse ultrasound.   

Last but not least, we talked to a Dr. Mushtag, from the City of Phoenix, Street Transportation Department. He gave us more information which led to our final design.  He told us that there is a system the city of Phoenix uses, which is similar in several states. This system is called a pressure sensor. It works by having the system set on the side to the road in a wash area and uses a pressure system which calculates the pressure of how deep the water is. From that calculation, the water depth is posted on a website which is public information.

Our team’s final product used all the systems that the experts informed us about. A GPS unit recognizes the location of potential road flooding areas (RFA) and alerts the driver.  The online computer application will connect to the department of transportation website which will give real time information if there is flooding in the road.  If there is no pressure tranducer or no information is given, a pulse ultrasonic sensor will detect if their water in the wash and how deep it is. 

Sources of information

To find information on our solution, we looked at the ASU THEMIS system. This helped our team with the technology our depth sensor would be using. We also talked to a geologist at ASU who helped us go in depth with what our technology is doing. His name is Dr. Ruff. He is an expert in Thermal Emission Spectrometry that measures thermal infrared energy (heat). He knows so much about this because he was a part of the team that sent the rover up to mars. Dr. Ruff told us about a technique.  This technique can tell us about how deep the water is on the road.

We also had a physicist give input about our project. His name is Dr. Peter Rez, and he works at ASU. He talked to us about a different theory on how to develop our project. He showed an alternative solution to use a pulse ultrasound instead of the tunable laser. Dr. Rez explained more complicated equations on how our project would work.  Although difficult to understand, it convinced us our solution would work.

Mr. Mushtaq, a specialist from the City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department, talked about how the Department has a series of pressure transducers in major washes in the Metropolitan areas as well as the Maricopa County. The pressure transducers detect the weight of the water and from the weight they can figure out how deep the water is. Once the pressure transducers detect how deep the water is it uses radio waves to send the information back to the City of Phoenix. Mr. Mushtaq explained this to us and answered other questions we had. He also showed us maps that he had and told us about their website,  We also found other flood information on the following websites:


A brief email from another engineer, Mr. Dennis Kaminiski, gave us insight as to some issues we might have in making sure the triangulation is accurate when something is taken from theory to real world application. 

Review existing SolutionsOut of Stock

When we looked for other solutions, we could only find a camera that hooked onto the back of the car, and there was a screen that was built in to the car dashboard. This was built for backing up safely, rather than flood safety. This item can come with the car, or you can buy it in certain stores or on websites separately.

When our team talked to specialist they showed us different systems that were being used for other solutions. What our team did, was put all the systems together to create the depth sensor.  

Retail cost

Our FLL team researched the cost of all the processes that the depth sensor uses, and what the retail price would be to manufacture our product. First, the depth sensor uses the GPS.  On average, the GPS would cost $85 each, but mass produced it would cost considerably less.  Many cars already have GPS built in and simply adding an app that would connect to the county flood control map, would not be cost prohibitive. 

In our research for cost for a pulse ultrasonic sensor we found a few different models:

 In reviewing the costs for these items, we concluded that the manufacturing costs would be about $150 for a longer range sensor.  This would place the total manufacturing cost for less than $250.

 Innovation (How it makes life better).

Our project, the depth sensor, can help people in their daily lives by keeping cars out of flooding. This eliminates the stress associated with your car driving into a flooded area.  Another thing that will make your life easier is the guarantee that your depth sensor will not break very easily. Our product is not only dust, and mud proof, but it is also water proof! This makes it very easy to clean.

Our product is also very reliable. Our depth sensor will be hooked up to the bottom of the car, sensing water in the road that might pose a threat to the driver and the car’s wellbeing. Our team concluded that any driver would like to have a system that kept them from not driving into flood water.



Sharing (Sharing with others)

  • ANLC PTO -
  • FLL web page:
  • Dr. Ruff
  • Dr. Rez
  • Dr. Mushtag
  • Mr. Kaminski

 Creativity (presentation of design)

Our team came up with a unique way to demonstrate our project. We thought about different ways to entertain the judges and our peers.  We realized that one of the more popular ways (between our team) to get ideas across to other people was an infomercial. Together, we wrote the outline for the script. From that, half of the group worked on writing the final script and the other half started thinking of unique props. For the last touch, everyone made the props and our group practiced many times showing it to different people.  

Presentation Effectiveness (How we organized the presentation)

We organized our presentation by finding the best way to teach others about our solution. We decided that the best way to do so was to make up a skit, or infomercial. After this decision was made, we had to schedule days to rehearse. This took time, patience, and a lot of hard work. We scheduled many times to rehearse and review with the team. Our team thought presenting an infomercial would be effective because it is unique. It is able to explain our project using facts and funny humor.

“I like our presentation because it really gives the judges a good example of our products.” Quotes one of the ANLC Geekbots.