ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Some Albemarle County students are working to ensure area waterways stay clean.

They’re currently only checked twice a year for safety, but these students’ work could help identity a problem as their project develops.

On Thursday, April 11, students from Monticello High School were out on the Rivanna River testing out a device they created in the classroom that they're hoping can one day serve the entire county.

Four small plastic bags containing several wires and tiny devices will hopefully take over the Rivanna River one day.

“This is a really big stepping stone for us because we're exploring different ways that we can test water levels in order to keep the rivers safe and also to let us know if anything’s wrong and also to collect long-term research," Tylar Schmitt, a senior at Monticello, said.

Students like Schmitt are deploying small devices that test a waterway's pH levels, along with the water and air temperature.

It's on a smaller scale compared to the big test that the Rivanna Conservation Alliance conducts twice a year, but an imbalance in the water can let authorities know that something is wrong.

“We've been working with them for a while now to be able to collect some more data for us in places we may not be doing it as frequently, or just more frequent data that's real-time gives us a sense of what we need to take care of or what we need to address,” Dan Triman of the Rivanna Conservation Alliance said.

The idea is that the student's device can be the eyes on the water year-round, with each spaced out about a mile apart.

“So if something is going wrong we're not like, ‘well, it could be anywhere in the river,’” Chris Stanek, a science teacher at Monticello, said. “We can isolate that source."

Inside each model is an SD memory card.

“We're collecting a short amount of data - sending this data directly to a website that anybody - any resident in the county, or anybody - can access any time to see real-time data and see if there's something wrong,” Stanek said.

Though the project is currently in its pilot stage, the hope is to expand it throughout the county and potentially even nationwide.

“We really hope to share what we put together over time so other people can do this as well,” Stanek said.

A lot of the drive behind this project was contamination reported at Lake Monticello back in 2016, which led to a shutdown of the waterway.

Stanek, the teacher behind this project, says with smaller devices like the ones the students are using can potentially identify issues sooner.