FORT PIERCE — A team of four Indian River State College students has garnered national attention for an innovative project gathering data on pollution in the Indian River Lagoon. Team Lagoon has been selected as a top ten national winner in the National Science Foundation Community College Innovation Challenge. The competition challenges college students to propose creative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) solutions to complex problems. IRSC members of Team Lagoon are developing a system to use highly sophisticated camera sensors mounted on drones to scan the Indian River Lagoon.

Team members Nichole Brewer, Vero Beach; Emily Walker, Vero Beach, William Hutchison, Port St. Lucie and Willie Harris, Vero Beach will attend an NSF Innovation Boot Campus in Washington D.C. June 15 to 18 for immersion in the thinking and skills that transform innovation into entrepreneurship. They will present their projects to legislators on Capitol Hill and be eligible for a $12,000 prize.

Further supporting the relevance of the project, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program Advisory Board has recommended that $105,000 be allocated for the IRSC lagoon project. The Board recommends how the Estuary Program spends federal money from the Clean Water Act and from the state lagoon specialty license plate sales.

The students are in the first stage of the project, “Optical Characteristics of Lagoon Pollutants,” and are developing novel optical techniques in a lab environment to measure water quality. Upon deployment later this year, the cameras will capture images in specific wavelengths to identify the location of pollutants and record the extent of sea grass and algae blooms to develop a water-quality map providing real-time data.