Ingenuity wanted in African Weather Sensor Design Competition

Developing, building and operating no less than 20,000 hydro-meteorological measurement stations in sub-Saharan Africa. That is the aim of the ambitious Trans-African Hydro-Meteorological Observatory (TAHMO) project, a joint initiative from Delft University of Technology (The Netherlands) and Oregon State University.

Presently, the African climate observation network is very limited. National governments and regional planners do not have the data to make proper decisions regarding investments in water resources infrastructure. With an increase in quantity and quality of climate stations, we can move forward towards the goal of obtaining accurate climate data. This data is essential for agriculture (e.g. harvest predictions), weather predictions (floods, droughts, tropical storms) and climate modelling.

TAHMO tries to integrate science with education: the weather stations would be placed at schools and integrated in the educational program so kids could learn about their own climate. Also, they could be taught on how to take measurements and the value this has from a scientific point of view. At the same time, we try to make the initiative financially sustainable by developing and rolling out viable business development. Estimated costs for establishing the network will be in the order of US$ 20 million, whereas operational costs for establishing the network will be around US$ 2 million per year.

Obviously, TAHMO is an ambitious and inspiring project. However, it needs to be said that we are still in the initial phase; TAHMO is an extensive project with various aspects that need to be addressed. Topics that need to be considered go beyond designing and building the weather stations network; also legal issues around the measurements, maintenance of the stations and expertise on how to integrate TAHMO in the education curricula are of high importance. We are aware of the fact that for these issues to be addressed adequately, indigenous knowledge and local experience are essential. Therefore, we are making efforts to build a community around TAHMO, consisting of (African) individuals, universities, (scientific) institutes and other relevant organisations that are supportive of our project and are willing to think along with us on the various aspects of this grand project.

In order to make the first steps in building this community, the TAHMO Sensor Design Competition is organised among African campuses, engineering societies, research centres and technology communities. The objective of this competition is to design a sensor that measures a weather or hydrological variable and is both inexpensive and robust, but also requires zero maintenance for two years. Such a sensor is needed in the weather stations the TAHMO project aims to build. The first round (deadline 1 March 2013) asks for the design of an innovative robust sensor in line with the TAHMO criteria. The top twenty teams with the best designs will receive a ‘Maker Package’ that will allow them to build and test the sensors. The final top ten design teams will meet in Nairobi in August 2013 to tinker and collaborate for multiple days and integrate the sensors into a standard weather station. For the competition, everyone is eligible to join, irrespective of age, nationality, profession or education. More information about the competition can be found on http://tahmo.info/sensor-design-competition.

To make TAHMO a successful project, all support is welcome. We therefore would like to encourage everyone that is interested in the THAMO project to join our community and participate in discussions on www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4729379 or www.facebook.com/TAHMO.competition. More information on the TAHMO project and the competition can be found on www.TAHMO.org. Together we can make TAHMO work!

Source: TAHMO – Press Release – 14 January 2013