Home-automation systems control lights and temperature, but what about monitoring water usage?

That should be an option, according to a technology-savvy group of New Albany Middle School students.

As part of a series of Lego-based robotics competitions, New Albany's Lego Lords team created a "smart" water-monitoring and leak-detection system for use in a house.

The system uses sensors that can be connected to Wi-Fi and operated via smartphone, said Nishant Chittari, a New Albany High School senior and mentor to the Lego Lords. The sensors can help homeowners find water leaks and understand water usage, he said.

Students built the system during a series of FIRST Lego League competitions, the latest of which is the FIRST Championship from April 25 to 28 in Detroit. (FIRST is an acronym for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology organization.) They qualified for the international competition during a state competition in February -- the Ohio FIRST Lego League Championship at Wright State University near Dayton.

For the competition, students needed to complete a hydrodynamics project and build an autonomous robot and accompanying attachments to compete in short games, said Lego Lords coach Madhavi Chittari.

The FIRST Lego League program helps students interact with their friends while learning about teamwork and technology, she said.

"It's a good, easy way for kids to learn while having fun at the same time," she said.

The students came up with the idea of a water-monitoring system -- they call it AquariiHome -- after talking to an environmental-sciences teacher at New Albany High School about their project, said Lego Lords member Varun Chitiveli.

"We decided to start from our homes," said Varun, a 13-year-old eighth-grader.

With the popularity of such home-automation systems as Google's Home and Amazon's Alexa, the Lego Lords group decided to create something that could be an extension of the home, Varun said.

The AquariiHome is battery-powered, Nishant said. The system includes three sensors that can be placed on faucets, toilets, water heaters and sump pumps, he said.

A fourth sensor for plants can help monitor indoor gardens, he said.

The students tested the AquariiHome system by simulating leaks in 14 homes, said Lego Lord member Mann Arora, 14.

During tests, the system detected a real leak in a toilet, said Mann, an eighth-grader.

The process of coming up with the hydrodynamics project, as well as refining the programming for the robot portion of the competition, develops presentation, critical-thinking and time-management skills, "which is very much required for the workforce," Chittari said.

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