Sensor Sub’s maiden voyage!

Sensor Sub took its maiden voyage in the University of Miami lake! We lost a prop (but recovered it), found a teeeeeeeny leak, figured out how to sink our fair ship and caught a few software bugs.

Our next iteration will resolve some controller issues and adjust for neutral buoyancy — minus those sexy external chains. (Hey, we told you this was a maker-built hack project, right?!)

We’re also aiming to get the external camera onboard for more interesting video. It was very cool to see fish and underwater landscape in the GUI, but trying to save the drive camera feed for this video was a bust.

The sensors themselves should be installed shortly, but Jose is working to resolve all the mechanical issues before we start hacking on data collection stuff.

We got some AWESOME money!


Presenting Sensor Sub to the Awesome Foundation Miami Trustees. (Photo by Malik S. Benjamin)

Thanks in part to your support, we have been awarded a $1,000 grant from The Awesome Foundation! We couldn’t be more excited or more grateful for Awesome Miami and for your help.

As soon as we get the check, we’ll buy the sensor array from Atlas Scientific and get going on install and testing. José has been working hard on the UI, and we hope to start collecting data by late January or early February.

So, how will we make Miami more awesome? Through civic science, open data and environmental storytelling. And we need your help. If you want to get involved, through hosting a demo to your group, using or collecting data, or something we haven’t even thought of yet, we want to hear from you. Reach us through the Ask Us Anything widget or via Twitter at @sensorsub.

In the spirit of open-source, well, everything, we’re adding a financials page so you can keep track of how we spend the money and any other support that may come our way. We hope this will foster a spirit of accountability among our participants and supporters and help others who might want to build a Sensor Sub of their own.

This weekend we’ll be water-testing Sensor Sub in a (undoubtedly chilly) pool. Stay tuned for pics and a report next week!

Give us a tweet!

We’re pitching Sensor Sub for a $1,000 Awesome Foundation grant tomorrow, and we’d love if you could tweet AwesomeMiami in support of the project. We also have a new Twitter account, SensorSub.

If we get the grant, we’ll use the money to buy sensors, finish the build and get Sensor Sub working in the water. Check out our super-short presentation to the board at

Meet Sensor Sub

Miami, meet Sensor Sub.  

Late last year José Hernandez, an IT guy, hardware hacker and dedicated diver, decided it would be cool to build a hacker submarine. Rebekah Monson, a journalist and civic hacker, heard about José’s sub and thought, “OMG, THAT IS SO AWESOME.” (Caps totally intended and not embellished in the slightest.) So, Rebekah reached out to José, nerd powers combined, and a plan was born to use this amazing DIY underwater rover to test and report on water quality issues in Miami-Dade County.

Right now, the sub is being reconfigured and refined. It’s functional and equipped with a camera and motors and some other goodies already. We’re hoping to scrape up enough dough to buy some rather pricey water quality sensors in the coming weeks. Once the sub is built, we’ll start testing water.

That’s where you come in. Where should we test? We want to test fresh water first, since saltwater requires a whole different set of sensors. We have identified a couple of spots of interest on the Miami River and some smaller canals. If you’ve always wondered about the water quality in your neighborhood stream, let us know.

As the project develops, we’ll report about what we find with maps, charts and all kinds of fun stories on this site. We’ll also show Sensor Sub to groups and invite friends along to watch her at work. We hope this project helps Miami understand its environmental water issues better, shows off the great work of our local hacker and maker communities and encourages more Miamians to roll up their sleeves and get into civic science.