United for Lake Erie 2017

AquaHacking Challenge

United for lake Erie 2017

Between April and September 2017, young innovators were invited to create ground- breaking solutions to critical environmental water issues.

Hosted By

Congratulations to the finalists

First Place

SIM Labs

Proprietary AI-powered imaging system that probes micro-organisms using different spectrums of light to enable the capture of unique optical fingerprints, enabling the proprietary AI engine to generate reliable and accurate identification, enumeration, and prediction data right on-site. This system will not only remove user bias, but the team envisions that this system will travel to the source of the water for in-situ measurements as field portable device, saving valuable time and resources.

SIM Labs became Blue Lion Labs.



Jason Deglint, Alexander Wong, and Chao Jin

Second Place


A novel artificial intelligence (AI) driven real-time event-management platform that aims to enhance the operational performance of municipal sewage collection infrastructure. The platform is designed to predict the heterogenous occurrence of storm events; ensure operators have sufficient information on how the sewer system will respond to these storm events; and provide real-time recommendations to optimize sewer flow routing to minimize overflow events.



Thouheed Abdul Gaffoor, Amin Jahanpour, Mohammed Al-arnawoot, Ahmed Dauda, Megh Suthar, Mohamad Vedut, Jacob George, Priyank Patel

Third Place

Fertilizer Burn

Development of a mobile soil testing lab and mobile application that will provide real-time, in-situ soil data to the user. The mobile lab can be fitted onto existing farming equipment (tractor or trailer) and be operated without interference to other tasks that the farmer may be completing concurrently. The soil data collected during usage is stored locally on the mobile device, and synchronized to a cloud application when internet access is available.

They became Equator.



Patrick Sapinski, Rebecca Swabey and Katherine Biefer

Fourth Place


Development of a product to capture microfibres that shed off clothing during the washing process. A sheet made of a fine filter with a polymer coating to attract and ‘catch’ microfibres as they float through laundry water. Made from recycled material, this sheet can be easily cleaned and disposed of when no longer capturing microfibres effectively.



Lauren Keira Smith, Sabrina Li, Rachel Baldwin and Lauren Yee

Fifth Place


Monitoring kit & app, addressing 3 problems common to citizen science: ensuring credible data (small kit containing removable cartridges with colourchange test strips); engaging & motivating citizens (appealing to people’s personal interests, the test will immediately tell whether the water is safe to swim in or not); data accessibility (make it easy for researchers, data collectors, and recreation users, to get more spatially-relevant data about harmful bloom risk throughout the Lake).

They became CyanoSleuth



Sylvie Spraakman, Nicole McLellan, Jill Crumb, Peter Last and Susan Li

About the Challenge

Despite its small stature among the Great Lakes, Lake Erie has the highest population living along its shorelines. It touches four U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario. The number of anglers on Lake Erie is greater than any other of the Great Lakes. Over 80% of commercial fishing in Ontario occurs on Lake Erie. Young, innovative minds were invited to put their skills to work, creating ground-breaking solutions to some of the most critical environmental water issues facing Lake Erie.

about lake erie

The Water Issues


Stopping the INVADERS to keep our fisheries fishable

Lake Erie has the largest freshwater commercial fishery in the world, contributing $244 million annually to Ontario’s economy.  Invasive species (those not native to Lake Erie) such as Asian carp pose a large threat to its ecosystem. Protecting the sustainability and ongoing productivity of commercial and recreational fisheries is key to Lake Erie’s economic and environmental health.


Stemming the PLASTIC tide

An estimated 10,000 metric tons of plastic debris enters the Great Lakes annually, with Lake Erie receiving about a quarter of that alone. Micro-plastics are of particular concern because little is known about their impacts on human and environmental health. Cleaning up existing plastic pollution and preventing more from being generated are both critical to ensuring safe water, clean beaches and healthy habitats across Lake Erie.


All EYES on Erie

Cottagers, farmers, rural resident and city dwellers, boaters, beach goers, anglers and hunters are all witness to the constantly changing conditions and diverse activities occurring across Lake Erie and its watershed. These many eyes on Erie represent an untapped source of knowledge, data and insight that could provide valuable information for everything from ecosystem protection and restoration efforts to public education and economic development.


Spreading #LakeErieLove

Home to beautiful sand beaches, a burgeoning local food movement, First Nations and Metis communities, remarkable boating and fishing, amazing migrations of thousands of monarch butterflies and over 300 bird species – and yes, one of the world’s largest annual motorcycle rallies – Lake Erie and its watershed represent an under-explored and often under-appreciated gem in the Great Lakes. The more people know about and appreciate all that the region has to offer, the more attention and resources that will go into protecting the Lake and supporting tourism, recreation, and local economic development.

An icon of a fish with microplastic

Taking on the ALGAE monster

Over the past decade, harmful algal blooms and zones of low oxygen have been increasing in Lake Erie. This has significant impacts on the lake’s environment and the Canadian economy. Water quality,wildlife populations and habitats are degraded, beaches are fouled, pipes are clogged, and the lake’s commercial fishery is increasingly at risk. Human health is also a significant concern, as a result of biological toxins produced by harmful algae. In Lake Erie, too much phosphorus is causing excessive algal growth and threatening ecosystem and human health. The financial, social, and ecological costs of these blooms are significant and growing, and action is urgently needed to reverse the trend.

Advisory Committee

Lila Adamec


Kevin Boehmer

Water Institute, University of Waterloo

Mark Fisher

Council of the Great Lakes Region

Molly Flanagan

Great Lakes United

Bernadette Conant

Canadian Water Network

Kerry Freek


Madhu Malhotra

Ontario Ministry of Environment

Paul General

Six Nations

Scott McKay

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

George Sousa

Grand River Conservation Authority

Nancy Stalder-Salt

Environment and Climate Change Canada

Nancy Goucher

Freshwater Future

Lindsay Telfer

Canadian Freshwater Alliance

Tony Maas


Anastasia Lintner

Canadian Environmental Law Association

Mark Servos

University of Waterloo

Nancy Kadousek

Region of Waterloo

2017 AquaHacking Youth Delegation

Young people are working towards improving the world around them through implementing water-related goals of today’s decision makers. This Youth Delegation represents these youth, the next generation that is already playing a critical role in monitoring the progress, maintaining the momentum, and implementing actions. Having grown up along with technology, we seek to use these tools to help other youth understand the role they can play in bringing about a healthier, cleaner, and more united Lake Erie.

2017 youth delegation

We live in a connected world, and seek to further include diverse stakeholders, vulnerable groups, and the voice of Lake Erie itself - its waters, and the life that depends upon it. In the spirit of doing things differently, we developed the idea for #LakeErieConnect - an umbrella resource connecting people to actions that can be taken locally in their own community. As the bridge between generations, we also recognize the value of going into communities directly impacted by the misuse of a natural resource, and the immeasurable value of direct experience.


Austin Bartos (Ohio, USA )- Kahentakeron Deer (Ontario, Canada) - Sherry Du (Ontario, Canada) - Natalija Fisher (Ontario, Canada) - Emily Hines (Ontario, Canada) - Andrew Holdsworth (Ontario, Canada) - Olivier Saint-Jean (Quebec, Canada) - Ashlynn Schindler (Ohio, USA ) - Emily Shildrick (Ontario, Canada) - Lauren Smith (Ontario, Canada) - Allison Turner (Illinois, USA ) - Steve Watts (Ontario, Canada)


Interested in bringing AquaHacking to a watershed near you and improving freshwater health? Let’s Connect, or follow us on social to be the first to know about our next Challenge.