YoYo Zhang ’24 was honored with a Pepsico Engineering Award at the 75th annual Connecticut Science & Engineering Fair for her research on "the feasibility of a water quality sampling and monitoring catamaran." Open to all 7th through 12th-grade students residing or enrolled in Connecticut schools, the fair was held March 6-18 at Quinnipiac University. Following preliminary judging, which was conducted virtually, Zhang selected to present her research as a finalist. She received her award and a medallion at Quinnipiac on Saturday, March 18.
Science Department Chair Morgen Goepel Fisher ’03 noted that Zhang chose to compete in the fair on her own. “It is extremely rigorous and difficult to do this,” Fisher said. “It was very self-driven and very impressive.”
Zhang submitted a poster abstract and a 25-page research paper about the water quality inspection boat she designed to raise awareness about the critical need to save and protect water resources globally. The experimental catamaran, which measures 40 x 30 centimeters, is operated by remote control and equipped with sensors to detect water pollution by measuring water turbidity and pH value. “[T]here are catamarans produced aiming at solving oil spill, litter, malnutrition of aquatic plants and other water-related problems,” Zhang said in her paper, which also included examples of current unmanned and remote-controlled boats capable of water quality monitoring.
However, her design for a smaller, light-weight boat would help to raise awareness about poor drinking water quality, because it could be operated by anyone. “Normal citizens can use a connected ps5 remote controller to achieve the goal of monitoring the catamarans, personally see the process of sampling water, and check the real-time collected data in order to deepen their impression on actual water quality,” she wrote.
Her project included a theoretical design with 3D drawings as well as structural designs for the catamaran, complete with a motor, turbidity and pH value sensors, pumps, propellers, and batteries. Zhang also developed a hardware design for the electrical components required to operate the boat and its systems, along with a software program to control the boat.
“By operating a programmed ps2 remote control, people can steer the boat and abstract water from different water levels, observe the change of pH and turbidity value … on a computer, which are data-transmitted from the sensors on the boat. Most importantly, when the boat encounters big waves, its body can be extended to stabilize and avoid turning over,” Zhang said in her abstract, continuing, “To improve the performance and capability of the boat, a second version is designed without much change in the programming section, but mainly in its shape and structure. Instead of a combination of a small main warehouse and two large side compartments, this second version switched into a large main warehouse containing all the electronic components plus two small but flexible side compartments served only for stability. The ps2 controller is replaced by bluetooth control on mobile phones to make it more convenient to be operated.”
Her research paper included test results from the model she built, and she concluded that her design could be improved by adding a sensor to measure water temperature and controls to allow the boat to automatically detect obstacles and change direction.