Building a tool that helps track flooding

Hi, my name is Austin Ang!

I am a rising 3rd year majoring in Computer Science at Georgia Tech, but I was born and raised in Savannah, GA. I first learned about the Smart Sea Level Sensors team through the public school system here in Savannah. During my time at Jenkins High School, I worked on this project during the construction phase, helping build one of the initial waves of sensors. I’m really glad to be able to hop back in and work on it again during my time at Tech.

I’m building a tool that helps people track flooding.

In high school,I constructed the actual pieces of sensors, assembling them with a team of classmates. Now, I’m working on the public facing dashboard: the dashboard is a publicly accessible website that anyone on the internet can use. It shows the sensors we have installed and the information that we learn from them. For the Smart Sea Level Sensor project, I’m using javascript to make the dashboard easy to use, part of my job is making sure that the data is present that the public would like to see most.

A screenshot of the Smart Sea Level Sensors dashboard, an interactive map with real-time water level data from the sea level sensors in Chatham county. Prominent in the screenshot is a view of Chatham county, with a number of circles scattered around the area representing the sea level sensors. On the side, the names of several sensor stations are listed; clicking these names opens a more detailed report of their real-time data.

Starting out, it was pretty daunting…

Even though I’m a CS student, I needed to learn web development for this project. It was daunting to look at this well-established codebase and try to make sense of it. I spent a week or two seeing what each function did, and even when I thought I had it figured out, it would end up surprising me down the road! At first, it would take me days to make changes that I thought would be relatively simple, and that was frustrating, but I knew that with time most problems can be solved. Adding layers (like street maps and buildings) to the dashboards and updating the corresponding legends on this map was one of my first goals. Afterwards, I implemented a solution to find the last sea level measurement taken within a certain time period and have it appear on the map. This makes the data more accessible for users, so they don’t have to click on a sensor to see the water level measured there.

Cars driving on a flooded street in Savannah, Georgia. The murky water has completely covered the asphalt and has begun to bleed into the grasses along the side of the street. The water nearly reaches the top of a car's tires.

Why does it matter to me?

Climate Change. Those two words are so important, especially during the time that I am writing this. As a Savannah resident born and raised here I have seen the sea level rise issue and flooding as a major problem. I remember many times during hurricanes Matthew and Irma where we had to completely drop what we were doing in high school and evacuate the area. The idea of potentially losing our homes was terrifying and I wouldn’t wish that fate upon anyone else. This project matters to me because it could make a difference in a future hurricane / flood situation and mitigation of damage for my hometown is something I hope for.

What’s Next?

At the time of writing this, I just volunteered to help with the Georgia Tech IoT camp. It was really fun teaching kids about technology, showing them technologies extremely similar to what we use in the sea level sensors project, and helping to create the next!

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