Building IoT Flood Trackers for Miami

Gregory Johnson
Nov 26, 2018 · 5 min read

Sea level rise is one of the most pressing issues facing South Florida today. Its impact has already been witnessed by many residents. Some even say by 2050 Miami will be underwater. It’s with this prevalence in mind that many Code for Miami volunteers has come out to work on sea level rise and climate change-related projects.

Code for Miami has teamed up with Moonlighter Makerspace, the Maker Faire Miami, and some of our regular volunteers to prototype and build flood trackers using the Internet of Things technology. We recognize sea level rise doesn’t just affect our coastlines but also our streets, water supply, and backyards. Our goal is to show what can be done by everyday citizens, and a little code, while learning about the data gathered in the process. Here is how the project has unfolded so far and what’s left to be done.

October 22nd — Information Session and Team Organizing

We briefed our attendees on the meaning of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and what’s needed to build their own device. They also learned about instances of flooding and changing water levels throughout South Florida as a result of sea level rise and King Tide. We instructed everyone on the first steps needed to build a water tracker, then forming teams of 2–4 people to build their devices. Each device requires someone to be able to build it, program it, and test it out.

October 27th — Building a Tracker

On Saturday, October 27th Groups gathered at Moonlighter Makerspace from noon to around 4:30 pm.

Around 7 groups formed to setup their terminal and begin building out their Proton tracking devices.

Unfortunately, most of the day was spent getting our terminals set up. On the bright side, there were Fufi empanadas on hand to keep the morale up.

November 12th — Designing a Flood Tracker

After instructing different makers on how to build over a period of several weeks they ended up with working sensors. In the photo above, you see a maker showcasing how there tube and sensors case should be placed. The tube would be able to pull in water and notify the sensor when the water reaches a specific point. While this design appeared popular in several workshops conversations the project lead gave the team a choice of what design they wanted to use.

The main thought was to use sensors that could detect flooding then send a message to a smart device or out through a tweet using a Twitter bot. The delivery and determination of what could be shared is up to each group. The method behind how each team built their sensor would stay the same except in the way they wanted to design their flood sensor to look. While building we had to keep in mind that the specific use case here was to place these trackers outside. If placed inside a place the makers would face the risk of a dead battery. As the tracker designed used solar powered energy to power the sensor.

Hardware | Flood Tracker Sensor

The above image was created using Figma by Code for Miami member, Nicholas.

Above is a mockup created by one of our Code for Miami members.To build this sensor you need the following hardware. You can see how the solar power panel which would power the battery would need to be in a place where sunlight would be readily available. In the model above a user could get a fundamental understanding of each piece component interacts.

The Recipe for the Flood Tracker Sensor:

  • 1x breadboard
  • 1x Particle Electron
  • 1x HC-SR04 sensor
  • 1x 470 Ohm resistor
  • 1x 1k Ohm resistor
  • 4x male to female wires

Software | Flood Tracker System

The Particle Sensor connected to a local machine.

In order for the flood tracker to work we needed something that can detect water, but also something that could sense when it happens and then notify a smartphone or other device. The Civic Hackers were instructed to use a tool called Particle which once programmed right could receive messages from the sensors bring it to the cloud and then notify a device.

Command Line instructions to install Particle CLI on your machine.

Above you get a simple snippet of how to install Particle. The goal of this device was to then program the sensor when it detects water to rise to then send a message to the cloud which would then send back to your device. You could easily think of Particle is the connector between the hardware, software, and design of the flood tracker.

Next Steps

Help us finish the build-out come out to one of our next meetings on November 26th or December 1st at Moonlighter. Details may be found here:

Interested in making your own flood tracker? See the code.

Want to join us at Code for Miami? Learn more.

Code for Miami, Inc. is a non-partisan, non-political 501c3. We believe in making Miami better through technology and design. We are a group of civic hackers working on digital solutions to make Miami more civically engaged and informed.

Special Thanks To Contributors:

Danielle Ungermann, Co-Capitan of Code for Miami.

Julie Kramer, Co-Capitan of Code for Miami.

Gregory Johnson, Project Management Lead at Code for Miami.

Code for Miami

A group of civic hackers (designers, developers, data…

Code for Miami

A group of civic hackers (designers, developers, data scientists, urbanists and community organizers) who contribute our talents toward improving Miami.

Gregory Johnson

Written by

Gregory Johnson is the founder of and, based in South Florida, and JSK Stanford Fellow.

Code for Miami

A group of civic hackers (designers, developers, data scientists, urbanists and community organizers) who contribute our talents toward improving Miami.

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