Toronto high school student Fahreen Bushra, 17, was studying for a calculus test when she received an email telling her that she would be a guest on the Daily Planet.
Devan Srinivasan, 13, received the same news after returning home from a school trip to Quebec.
These budding young minds saw their hard work pay off when they were invited to present their invention, HydroHome, on the Daily Planet’s segment “Invent This!” on Feb. 4.
“I was completely shocked,” said Srinivasan, who helped develop the software and website for the invention.
Bushra and Srinivasan along with team members Lucas Rodrigues, Justice Gin, and Kristina Chen found themselves sitting across from host Ziya Tong with a DIY model of a running faucet.
“Just to make it clear, this is not our product. Our product is actually the sensor right there,” Bushra explained and pointed at a piece of black, plastic hardware in-between the faucet’s pipes.
This is a prototype of HydroHome, which is a flow sensor that measures the amount of water being used by an appliance and sends that data to a Google spreadsheet. From there, the analytics are presented on a graph that’s displayed on the project’s website to help homeowners learn if they could be using less water.
Bushra invented this idea for ZerotoStartup, a 13-week program in Toronto that engages youth in entrepreneurship and technology. Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 are tasked to solve real world problems by designing and promoting their very own products.
Bushra realized that water meters issued in Toronto have no way of showing how much water a homeowner actually uses. She thought this was odd considering the amount of ads and articles encouraging people to save water.
“I think people are unaware of how precious water is and how much they’re using it,” said Bushra. “[HydroHome] helps them understand their behaviour and make changes towards it.”
She pitched it to ZerotoStartup and soon enough the team of five multifaceted youth were assembled. They worked together cohesively, each member focusing on different aspects of the project. Some worked on the actual hardware for the prototype, others worked on the software and the business aspect of the project.
From October to December they worked on HydroHome every Saturday with the guidance of ZerotoStartup instructors. On Dec. 19, the team pitched their idea to four judges, requesting business mentorship from Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone, technological mentorship from STEAMLabs and a partnership with the City of Toronto. They were granted all of these requests.
“I didn’t think a kid as young as me could get this far in something and complete such a massive project,” Srinivasan said. “It’s amazing to think that we created a real product that could truly help tackle the problem of sustainable Toronto.”
Working as a team was imperative to their success. Bushra says the different skills each member had helped the group be efficient.
“Some of us were more confident in public speaking, others were not, and some of us were more comfortable with hardware,” she explained.
The future of HydroHome is bright and their appearance on the Daily Planet is just the beginning. The team plans on tweaking their prototype, creating a more aesthetically pleasing design and a range of sizes for different appliances. Their end goal is to see HydroHome as a regular product in Toronto.
“Like ‘Hey it’s a HydroHome product, do you have it installed in your house?’” said Gin, 13, giving an example of a conversation he wants to hear in the future. “’Yeah I do!’”
Ultimately, all of them have come out of this experience with a passion for entrepreneurship and technology, something that they see as careers of the future.
“After coming out of ZerotoStartup I think those skills are crucial,” said Srinivasan. “The younger you learn it and the more experience you get—it can only be better.”