How to Collect Water Samples? - By : Substance,

How to Collect Water Samples?

The École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) in Montreal is proud to have successfully completed the second edition of the International Summer School on Innovation and Technological Design, which took place from June 30 to July 29, 2016. 49 students from 15 different countries had registered for the program.

Students of the second edition of the Summer School of the ETS in the company of teachers and managers of the course

Students of the 2016 ÉTS Summer School edition in company of the course professors and managers.

From the creative process in which the best ideas are brought to maturity, to rapid prototyping and 3D up to the innovation process, the students evolve in a multidisciplinary context. Students have evolved with a team of ten professors and an industrial designer: The ÉTS professors Michel BaraërPierre BélangerFrançois BrissetteChristopher FuhrmanRobert HauslerMaarouf Saad and Matthew Toews for the technical aspects of projects, Lorena Escandon and Mario Dubois, for the creativity, innovation and teamwork notions learned, Design Professor Mithra Zahedi from University of Montreal, who introduced them to the concept of design thinking and Félix Guyon, an industrial designer. They also benefited from training sessions and conferences by échoFabIBM, and Ubisoft. The program brings students as far as possible in the innovation process.

Six challenges proposed by the De Gaspé Beaubien Foundation as part of the AquaHacking competition, allowed them to find an innovative solution to the following problem to protect the St. Lawrence River:

  1. Collect water samples from the St. Lawrence River.
  2. Inform the population about the river water quality.
  3. Recognize and identify rare or invasive species in the river.
  4. Reducing bank erosion.
  5. Remove polluting solid waste from the river.


Two of the Summer School teams, the Beach Buoys and PolyIDÉE, presented a solution for water sampling from the St. Lawrence River.

The Problem

To inform the public about river water quality, we have to collect water samples in an efficient, low cost manner, analyse them and quickly communicate the results to the public. If there is a long delay, bathers might suffer the consequences, as shown in this video produced by the Beach Buoys team:

The problem statement of both teams was similar:

“How do we design an efficient system to sample water from the St. Lawrence River?”

 Water samples are usually collected manually, then shipped to a laboratory for analysis.


This process can take days, depriving the public of timely water quality information. This may create distrust and places people participating in water activities at risk.

There are automated water analysis systems and unmanned boat systems, for taking water samples, but these are high cost solutions.

échantillon eau automatique

Automated water analysis systems

echantillon eau autonome

Unmanned boat systems

samplify1The Beach Buoys’ Team Solution

This team’s solution is called Samplify. The concept is relatively simple: water sampling sensors are integrated into buoys that border the swimming area of a given beach (the green cones in the figure below).


The cable between the safety cones and the cones containing water sampling sensors is equipped with pipes transporting the collected water to a storage tank on shore (the gray cylinder on the beach in the figure above). The pipe is connected to a cylinder‑shaped water sample filling system that can contain multiple samples (eight in the figure below).


The sample cylinders can be easily retrieved by an employee to perform analysis on site or nearby (in a truck containing analytical equipment as an example). This solution would quickly produce results for informing the public. This solution also reduces sampling costs.

 The PolyIDÉE Solution

 This team presented a simple and swift water sampling solution and a mobile solution for water quality analysis for quickly informing the public. 

Collecting Water Samples

The team used a very simple technique to take samples at the water’s edge: a fishing rod to launch and reel back a water sampling device.


This launched device consists of a float, a shell which opens at the desired depth and an extendable cylinder to collect the water samples.


The cylinder is labelled with a bar code for identifying water samples.


Analysing Water Quality

The employee may also use a “smart pen” device. This sensor‑fitted device could analyze a number of samples directly on site in order to alert the public if contamination is detected.


Introducing the Projects at the AquaHacking Challenge

 The leaders of the two teams decided to continue the development of their solutions in order to present them at the AquaHacking Challenge 2016 this September. They changed their team slightly and moved forward with their project. We hope that they will among the projects selected for this international competition.


  • The Beach Buoys: the leader, Nikolas Sommer (RWTH Aachen University); Team members: Ravi Singaram (Nanyang Technological University), Daniel Morimoto (Escola Politécnica da Universidade de Sao Paulo), Heidy Patron et Sergio Gualteros (ÉTS) and Candice Lai (City University of Hong Kong);

equipe beach buoy

  • PolyIDÉE: the leader, Samira Mohamady (RWTH Aachen University); Team members:  Katherine Briceno Guerrero (Universidad de Los Andes), Ali Mohammadshahi (Iran University of Science and Technology), John Ku Wen Yew (Nanyang Technological University), Francesco Feltrin (Univertà di Padova) and William Lang (Nanyang Technological University).

equipe PolyIDEE

Get the latest scientific news from ÉTS