AFloat is inspired by one of our members’ personal experiences with tsunamis and earthquakes. In 2011, when she was living in Japan, the biggest earthquake and tsunami of Japanese history hit. Homes came crashing down, families were separated, people were drowned and crushed by infrastructure, power plants exploded, and many went missing without any trace. She was only 6 at the time, and she was far enough to not get flooded, but felt the ground rigorously shake underneath her. All over the news, were missing children, kids stuck inside laundry baskets in the water, for over weeks, to arrive at a safer place. This personal story inspired her to pitch a more systematic approach to natural disaster relief to her group, to streamline the police’s efforts when saving victims, allow the victims to safely escape and seek higher ground, and get the service’s attention when searching from high ground.

What it does

AFloat is a natural disaster relief system. It helps victims alert emergency services, their family, and friends. When hurricanes hit, families are often stranded in their community if they are not able to evacuate beforehand due to flooding and debris-blocked roads. We created an automatic, electric inflatable that is used as a victim-identifier for emergency services and can also be detachable as a boat for flood victims. The inflatable can rest on the top of one's home and in the case of an emergency, the system and be activated--the large, reflective inflatable with blinking LEDs (clearly visible during nighttime) is a distinct object that emergency services (helicopter, boat..etc.) can easily identify compared to one person on a roof. Furthermore, we created a color coded LED system where a victim can turn on a different colored light based on their situation. For example, a red light would indicate that they have a life-threatening medical emergency, a blue light would indicate a non-life threatening medical circumstance (ex. broken bone...), a yellow light would indicate that someone is trapped within an enclosed space (debris), and a green light would indicate that everyone was ok but they were unable to evacuate.This would increase efficiency for emergency services as they would be able to prioritize victims in need. The LED colors would also be displayed on a website (explained further down).

AFloat can be activated manual by a button or by a victim's phone. It would inflate the system, turn on the LEDs and send notifications to alert emergency services and family. Additionally, we created a website using that displays information on how to use the system and what to do during a natural disaster. The website also has a map with the LED color code that locates where victims are.

The system is completely battery powered so if house loses power, the system would still work. AFloat is also cost effective and portable. It is also sustainable since we plan to power the system with solar power.

How we built it

We utilized an Arduino Uno board and a wifi NodeMCU board to create the inflatable system with LEDs. The boards are control via the Blynk app so it can be controlled online. Blynk has different widgets like a location map and the ability to post to social media (alert emergency services, family, friends). We also used and Google Cloud Platform to create the website. The inflatable rests on a cardboard model home we built.

*We used a pool cup unicorn float to simulate the inflatable but AFloat would be a lot more reflective.

Challenges we ran into

As a group, we ran into many challenges with the hardware, Google Home, and website. After purchasing the Domain on, and writing all the necessary HTML code, we first went to AWS to connect the domain and information together. However, this ran into issues and eventually we transferred to Google Cloud Platform, where we were finally able to connect the two after long arduous hours of trial and error. Additionally, with our hardware in our air pump, our battery was only 9V, and couldn’t power the motor enough to blow up our boat. To combat this, we searched and borrowed and connected our battery to two AA batteries to increase it to 12V. Finally, after trial and error, it was enough to blow up our safety boat. In addition, we constantly ran into issues with Google Assistant Control with IFTTT, and ultimately we could not figure our why our applets did not process and could not immediately connect them to a social media post nor the BLYNK.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We were able to build a website from scratch for our emergency relief system. We were able to endure many challenges from AWS, and it pushed us to venture to a different program, Google Cloud Platform. Additionally, we were able to fix the motor to spin constantly which powered the electric pump to inflate the boat, which was a crucial aspect of our emergency system. We are very proud that we built a functional system that could change the lives of many involved in environmental disasters with the limited knowledge, experience, and challenges we faced in the 24 hours.

What we learned

This emergency relief system pushed us to venture out and try new programs. We switched from AWS, which was a connector we were very accustomed to, to Google Cloud Platform, which was something very foreign to us. However, the website was created successfully using this, which motivated us to continue to venture out to new systems and taught us to adapt to problems quickly.

What's next for AFloat

We plan to add a buzzer connected to BLYNK to get more attention from the EMS when they are in a helicopter. Additionally, we plan to figure out Google Assistant Connection, to connect it to BLYNK and get it running more smoothly and automatically. Additionally, we plan to also use Google Assistant to immediately send out a twitter post letting family, police, and friends know about the natural disaster so they can send aid or support. To increase sustainability and functionality, we will water proof the electric boards/power sources and power the system with solar panels. Finally, we plan to add a satellite on the boat so that the police emergency stations know the location of the boats, their current states (with the LED notification), and if the boats are lost or missing, the police can track them down easily.

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