12/15/2010 06:13

The prize-winning computerized device invented by two 19-year-olds measures household water consumption to avoid waste.
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A user-friendly computerized device that detects water leaks in apartments, buildings, factories and neighborhoods in real time and can even halt the water flow is among the top winners of this year’s Stockholm Junior Water Prize, and may one day be part of routine installations.

Its inventors were two teenagers who earned high school matriculation and bachelor’s of science degrees simultaneously at a unique Jerusalem yeshiva high school.

On Wednesday, the two 19- year-olds – Gal Oren and Nerya Stroh of the Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) Torah & Science Yeshiva High School – will show their Aquastop invention to Swedish Ambassador Elinor Hammarskjöld.

The device, which is estimated to cost only NIS 100 per family, analyzes the average water balance of the consumer over a certain period. After this “learning” period, the system keeps measuring the user’s water consumption. If it identifies a major deviation from the average, it sends a text message to the user’s cellphone or personal computer via a GSM modem in real time, and gradually disconnects the water source to avoid waste. Another mode of detecting water leakages – both big and small – is the identification of steady water consumption over a long period.

The entire system can be embedded into one electronic circuit, and the device can easily fit in the palm of one’s hand. It can be made part of a designated water meter or retrofitted to an existing meter.

The first component developed by Oren and Stroh – under the direction of JCT engineer David Gelman and his assistant Yisrael Alishevits – is a demonstration setup that simulates the water installation of the consumer. This part contains, among other things, an analog water meter from which the data are transferred so they can be used by the second component, a microcontroller made up of electronic components.

In September, the high school pupils’ technology was cited as one of the five best at the Junior Water Prize ceremony in Sweden after competing against more than 100 teenagers from 30 countries. Wearing their crocheted kippot, they officially represented Israel and shook hands with Crown Princess Victoria, the contest’s patron. They were also invited during their week-long visit to dine with King Gustav, but declined because it was Rosh Hashana, Oren told The Jerusalem Post.

On Tuesday, JCT president Prof. Noach Dana-Picard praised the two boys, who started working on Aquastop when they were 14, and said the college was working to register it for a patent. The school is also negotiating with hi-tech companies for the device’s manufacture.

“I am very proud that two young and brilliant yeshiva students took the national water shortage problem and turned it into a scientific project,” he said. “They succeeded in finding an efficient solution to water loss and leakage.”

Gelman, who also coordinates computer studies at JCT’s high school, told the Post that over 100 million cubic meters of household water are lost annually due to leakage and other reasons. This represents 13 percent of all household water supplies, he said.

While losses by a single household may be small, their cumulative effect, or unobserved leakages in underground pipes, can still cause considerable waste, added Oren.

JCT’s Torah & Science Yeshiva High School, said Gelman, is unique in Israel, as pupils can obtain their matriculation by age 18 while taking college courses on JCT’s Givat Mordechai campus, and a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences by the end of an additional year of studies.

Oren and Stroh learned that they had earned their academic degrees only a few weeks ago. They are scheduled to go on to IDF service or to a hesder yeshiva that combines Torah studies with army service. Currently, Oren, whose family lives in Moshav Melilot, is studying at Ma’aleh Gilboa, but expects to go soon to an IDF academic unit. Stroh is at the Har Etzion hesder yeshiva in Gush Etzion.

Gelman says he teaches the same subjects in the high school and college. “But a course that I give at the college in just one semester I teach more slowly, in a whole year, at the high school level,” he said.

Numerous 12th-grade projects he has supervised have earned leading prizes in the Intel-Israel Young Scientists’ Competition at Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Science Museum. Oren and Stroh will enter Aquastop in the next competition in March and hope to represent Israel at the World Intel Competition.

Oren said that under Gelman’s tutelage, he and Stroh had decided to choose water preservation for their final high school project because they realized how serious the country’s water situation was.

“Instead of building nice robots like others, we decided to contribute something to the country,” he said. “Aquastop is very practical and easy to use.”

He noted that it can currently take hours to detect water leaks, and none of the existing companies provide detection and communication to the customer in real time or turn off the water source automatically.

Oren has a wide variety of interests. He has already received the Shazar Prize in History for his study of the diplomatic ties between Israel and the US regarding the Dimona nuclear reactor, and won first prize in a writing competition for the Hebrew version of Wikipedia.