One year ago, a team of friends and I entered the Tech4Good competition, competing for the BT Young Pioneer award. Our idea was the Water Watcher: a way of reminding people to turn the tap off, specifically designed to be easy to use for people with short-term memory problems, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It is a small device which clips simply onto the tap; it senses running water using a vibration sensor, and once the water has been on for too long, an alarm will beep, reminding the user to turn the tap off. This simple but effective innovation won us the award!

We were thrilled when we won! Besides getting one of the coolest trophies I’ve ever seen (made from recycled parts!), and it being real recognition of all the work we put in last year; even apart from all this, it was also not the end of the Water Watcher, but the start of something new.

Water Watcher goes into development!

Since then, our little homemade BBC Micro:Bit-run, rubber-band-supported device has come on a long way. It has since been put into development by a water saving company, and been expanded upon and improved to optimise elements such as the vital user-friendly aspect, while still completely maintaining our original concept. It’s been great how we have all been kept in the loop: the company tells us about changes which are being made, lets us know what it looks like, and are keen to make sure we learn as much as possible from this experience.

And boy we have! Two years ago I would have thought making a product could only be so hard; you just have to make it… right? Well my answer to my past self would now be, basically, no. There are all sorts of nuances which have to be taken into account, and that can delay it. For example, the battery life has been a struggle for the Water Watcher. It is hard to find a small enough battery with a long enough life. But the company are totally in agreement with our desire for a compact size and have been really cooperative in trying to get around the issue.

Skills for the future, networking

I also learned a lot from the actual experience of taking part in the competition. At the launch event at the BT Tower last year, we all did an activity dubbed as ‘speed networking’. We had under five minutes to explain our idea to someone who had no clue what it was, before they did the same. This, and the other plentiful networking opportunities there were in the competition, were a really great way for me to learn and practise how to network! Because it’s hard talking to people you don’t know, about something they don’t know, for who knows how long! But after the competition I know I have improved, and I’m sure my teammates would say the same.

By Elye Cuthbertson (aged 14)