University of Guelph Metal for Movement : Project Impact Report

Added by ESW Guelph 4 days ago

Project Summary

The UofG Metal for Movement project was launched in January 2023 with the aim of making a positive impact on the community. This innovative initiative involves the collection of pop tabs on the UofG campus through various sources, contributing to a worthy cause. The collected pop tabs are donated to the Canadian Legion, who then sells them for scrap and utilizes the proceeds to purchase wheelchairs for individuals with disabilities. To encourage widespread participation, pop can tab collection jars have been strategically placed in various areas across the campus, including each residence and dining hall. These jars not only serve as collection points but also feature thought-provoking questions that engage students in a unique way. By simply dropping a pop tab into the jar corresponding to their choice, students can vote on different topics. For example, one question could be as light-hearted as "cats or dogs?" The interactive donation process creates a fun and engaging atmosphere for students, fostering a sense of community and inspiring them to contribute even more. In addition to the collection jars, another eye-catching collection site can be found at the University Centre. Here, a rain barrel designed to resemble a giant pop can serves as a creative and attention-grabbing collection box. The exterior of the can is meticulously crafted to resemble a Canada Dry can, made with modifications to display the logo and information representing the UofG ESW chapter. This innovative design not only draws attention to the pop-tab collection initiative but also serves as a visual representation of the club's involvement. Furthermore, arcade-style collection boxes, such as Plinko and Pinball, are being designed to provide an interactive drop-off process for students, adding an element of fun to the donation experience. To further enhance student engagement, technology is being leveraged through the use of QR codes and sensors. When students participate in the pop-tab collection, their contributions are logged virtually. This virtual platform not only tracks their involvement but also converts the pop-tab collection into virtual points that can be redeemed for exciting prizes. By combining the physical act of donating pop tabs with a digital rewards system, students are incentivized to donate more and actively participate in the initiative. Overall, the UofG Metal for Movement project not only aims to collect pop tabs but also strives to create an inclusive and interactive experience for students. By combining elements of fun, engagement, and technology, the project successfully encourages students to contribute their pop tabs, supporting a worthy cause while fostering a sense of community and social responsibility on the UofG campus.

Project Plan & Evaluation

The overall assessment for the Metal for Movement project has been incredibly positive. The presence of collection boxes on campus has generated significant interest among students, resulting in a remarkable influx of donations. The enthusiastic response from the students at UofG has been very impressive, with numerous contributions pouring in since the project's start-up. When students spot a collection box strategically placed in various locations on campus, their curiosity is piqued, and they feel a sense of purpose in actively participating. The visually appealing design of the collection boxes, whether it be the simple collection jars or the attention-grabbing rain barrel resembling a giant pop can, captivates students and sparks their interest. The boxes serve as tangible reminders of the project's mission and the impact their contributions can make. Witnessing the collection boxes in prominent areas such as residence halls and dining halls not only increases their visibility but also instills a sense of community among students. Regarding the amount of pop tabs collected, our team firmly believes that we have the potential to collect an even greater quantity through improved marketing strategies. While the current collection boxes have been effective in generating donations, we recognize that a well-executed marketing plan can significantly enhance our outreach efforts and ultimately lead to a substantial increase in the number of pop tabs collected for charity.

Lessons Learned There were multiple lessons learned throughout our Metal for Movement project. One of the biggest lessons is to be aware of how many hours your team is willing and able to put into a project every semester and to not bite off more than you can chew. We learned this the hard way by setting an ambitious target of five boxes being made over the course of two semesters. This didn’t seem like much at the time but after considering how consistently members showed up and that an hour-long meeting usually only resulted in thirty minutes of work being done, we quickly realized that this target would not be met. After talking to other chapter leaders, we learned the best way to make progress on a project was to make sub-teams and leave it up to these teams to complete their parts in their own time outside of meetings. It sounds like a bad idea, but it works really well if your members are motivated to work on the project. This leads me to my next lesson. Only work on projects that your members are SUPER excited for. If you do not do this, you will make very little progress and end up with poorer meeting turnouts. After all, clubs are volunteer groups, and you can’t force people to come to every meeting, so you need to instead bribe them in whatever ways possible to get them to come out and the best way to do this is to give them projects that they REALLY want to work on (and food if that doesn’t work…lol). Sometimes you have to try out a project to figure out what your members really like but even if it fails, as long as you listened to your members about what aspects they liked and didn’t like, you can incorporate this into projects for years to come and will end up much more successful. The third and final lesson is to communicate your plans thoroughly and frequently. The key to success is making your members aware of the deadlines that you are trying to meet and updating them frequently. This way members know well before a meeting what supplies they will need and what needs to be done by the next meeting. This will allow them to hit the ground running without requiring much guidance and require you to micromanage less.

Project Impact

Our goal with the Metal for Movement project is to continue to collect tabs on campus for years to come with the hope of collecting enough pop tabs in the next two years to purchase a wheelchair. This will allow us to not only help members in our community but also teach students that you can develop fun and sustainable projects that can also be used to directly benefit your community and the members within it.

Future Work

Our chapter plans to finish off our two boxes and implement them on campus and then begin our marketing campaign. This campaign will be used to teach students about why these arcade boxes are there, who made them, and how they too can contribute to the project and our chapter’s other ongoing projects. To maintain this project over the next few years, we will incorporate collecting tabs from our barrel, boxes, and residence jars on a monthly basis into the requirements of our Junior Project Manager roles. This will allow us to check on the boxes frequently, perform any necessary maintenance, and decide if the project is worth further expanding. Our original plan was to make more boxes every semester for the next couple years, but we decided it would be best to market our boxes better and only have a few spots on campus for students to drop off their tabs. The hope of this is that we can focus our engineer’s efforts on other new projects and put our marketing team to the test to see how much attention they can bring to the project which in an ideal world should be sufficient to collect a large amount of pop tabs using our current collection facilities.


NU - SmartTree: Winter 2023 Update

Added by Fay-Ling Laures 2 months ago

During winter quarter, we finally managed to complete our base pieces and make progress in the electrical side! For construction, we hit the ground running and started with using the water jet and table saw for the base plate and base piece walls, and spent the rest of the quarter drilling and assembling all the different parts of our base pieces together! On the electrical side, we tested our MPPT (which allows us to charge and use our battery!) and solar panels, which can successfully charge devices!

At the start of the quarter, we had a small team learn to use the waterjet in order to cut out our base pieces. Because of the large nature of our construction, we had to split the base plate into 4 smaller triangles (similar to our 4 triangular base piece modules). After consulting different shop experts, we decided to go with a “T” shaped puzzle piece to fit together our base plates. After cutting the first piece, we tested different sized “T” pieces on the waterjet first, to ensure that the two pieces would fit together (since the water jet cut was not 100% accurate and we needed to allow space to easily assemble/disassemble the puzzle pieces).

After trying different pieces, we finally found the correct fit and were able to cut the rest of the base plate, including the thicker top layer to it as well! Simultaneously, we had another team working with the table saw to level out previously uneven base piece walls. Then, we were ready to start assembling!

We first temporarily lined up the side pieces and brackets to mark holes and drill each 60° bracket. When first drilling these brackets, we did not take into account the difficulties in lining them up with the corresponding walls to drill - in the future we should definitely make them uniform! After lots of trial and error, we managed to drill all the holes correctly, counterbore the holes, and screw together all of the side piece walls. With our full assembly, we were able to router out the middle bottom and use short wood screws and glue to attach the connecting brackets (which hold each of the modules together). For future iterations, we hope to better consider how we are attaching each part ahead of time - if we had designed and lined it up correctly, the middle bottom could have been screwed straight into the middle piece module with longer wood screws for a more secure, permanent fix. However, the entirety of the base of our structure was complete!

On the electrical side, we were able to test our MPPT (which allows our batteries to be charged), discharging from the battery, and also charging from the solar panels! We were able to first charge a set of LED lights, and later even a laptop! We also tested charging multiple devices at once, since that is our ultimate goal. Next steps include creating an electrical box to hold and weather-proof all of our components.

Fay-Ling and Thomas are both extremely proud of what the team has accomplished this quarter, and are looking forward to making more progress into new parts of the structure in the spring! Our construction goal is to move from the base pieces of our structure to the poles and locking mechanisms (which will ultimately hold up our solar panels), and to integrate in our electrical system and components! Look forward to seeing our prototype soon!

NU - Green Wall: Winter 2023 Update

Added by Cameron Moore 2 months ago

Green Wall Progress From Winter 2023

Officially joining ESWNU this quarter, Green Wall has made strides beginning the design process and expanding the project team. We have been laying the groundwork to be able to start building early next year and identifying sustainability focuses to integrate into our design. We are pursuing a design that uses technology from hydroponic systems to recycle water thus minimizing water usage. We created preliminary design sketches in CAD that we will refine further moving into next quarter.

CAD model

In the recruitment process, we have identified three main interests to focus on: botany , plumbing , and construction . As we are still in the early stages of student engagement and design, our subteams are working together. Once construction has started early next year we will start more specific tasks for each focus team. Currently we have had some great work done by many members of our team including Kyan Shlipak and Liv Fingerson .

sketching design

This spring quarter will focus on water systems and structures that will allow our design to be easily reproduced for future iterations of the project.

Project managers Cameron Moore and Ellie Lind are extremely pleased with the progress made this past quarter. And we look forward to continuing to build our community within this project group as we progress.

NU - AutoAquaponics: Winter 2023 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Winter of 2023
Added by Bill Yen 2 months ago

This quarter, AutoAquaponics made strides in all aspects of our project and welcomed David Kim and Emi Saegusa to our team. We also continued our involvement in community education by giving a tour of the system to middle and high schoolers from the Chicagoland area as a part of Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) Career Day for Girl event. Our team members showed them everything from the plumbing system we built to our software platform, which many of our visitors were especially excited about. We hope to impart to them that engineering is for everyone and demonstrate the importance of diversity in science with our own various backgrounds and identities. Read more about AutoAquaponics’ involvement in SWE’s Career Day for Girls at McCormick’s recent article here .

Our plumbing and software team representatives (Hannah and Talia) giving a presentation of our system:

AutoAquaponics is also honored to receive Northwestern community’s recognition this quarter by accepting the Wildcat Impact Award for Discovery . Our current Project Manager (Bill Yen) was selected for this award among the entire student body for his work on starting AutoAquaponics over the pandemic and transferring his leadership and engineering skills over to the next generation of student leaders. Our incoming group of leaders will be Marcos Sanchez and Lester Tai (AutoAquaponics Co-Project Managers), Kyan Shlipak (Plumbing Lead), Yanni Wilcox (Electronics Lead), Andre Chen (Software Lead), and Eduardo Andrade (Biology Lead).

On the project side, our software team focused on improving the security of our web app by implementing website login and authentication via Firebase. This includes secure writes for all of the developed pages on our control panel. They also improved our website's mobile performance and set up Google Analytics to monitor traffic so we can better understand how to improve our UI design. Next quarter, we plan to revamp the home page by introducing an interactive diagram of our AutoAquaponics system in place of the static image right now.

Mobile view of the dashboard:

As for electronics, we are in the process of replacing our current ultrasonic distance sensor with a more robust product that can sense water levels without getting corroded over time. We also continued our work in designing our electronics box PCB and fully reworked our outlet box code to get it ready for implementation. Some of our members began designing a window-cleaning robot, which we hope to use to keep our fish tank's front glass panel algae-free. We got the encoder working and fitted the motor shaft to our 3D-printed rim, and our next steps will be to laser-cut holders for magnets to sit in so the robot can stay attached to the glass. Winter Quarter likewise marked the official end to our fish feeder team's time in Northwestern's Interdisciplinary Design course, and they ended the project strong by creating a new prototype fish feeder featuring a custom-designed PCB that allows the feeder to actuate motors and record how much food was being fed with high degrees of accuracy.

Our members working on the outlet box:

Soldering components to the custom fish feeder PCB using a microscope:

Our plumbing team put their efforts into 3D printing a better intake screen for the solids lifting overflow (SLO) and also modifying the membrane filtration tank by installing a bracket to hold the filtering membrane. They also prototyped a new custom-designed bell siphon for the lower grow bed in order to improve flow and increase the water level in the grow bed so that seedlings can grow faster.

Waterproofing and removing supports from the 3D printed bell siphon:

Members getting laser-cutter trained and then applying their new skills to manufacture brackets for the membrane filter:

Some unfortunate development occurred on the biological side of AutoAquaponics. Namely, our fish became infected with camallanus worm, which is a type of intestinal parasite that will eventually starve the fish of nutrients and kill them. See the red worms exiting their recently deceased host in the picture below:

To combat this, we are dosing fenbendazole and levamisole in the form of medicated fish food, both of which are known to kill nematodes. The biology team spent most of their efforts this quarter trying to cure and save as many fish as we can, as camallanus worm is especially difficult to get rid of since they are unaffected by medication in the water. This means that if the fish stops eating due to the sickness, it becomes impossible to kill the worms.

Our biology team member putting medicated fish food into the commercial automatic fish feeder we use:

The parasites have mostly only affected our smaller fishes (tiger barbs and mollies), and larger fish like the Raphael catfish here seemed fine:

We also continued to grow our plant produce and added mint and spring onion to our crop list:

At the start and end of Winter Quarter, AutoAquaponics hosted harvest day socials for ESWNU to turn the plants we grew into delicious food and share them with the whole club. Here are some pictures of our team processing our produce into wheatgrass smoothies, mint creme brulee, and scallion pancakes:

And of course, we composted all of our waste at the designated bins run by Cats Who Compost :

That's all for this quarter, thank you so much for your continuous support, and stay tuned for more updates from AutoAquaponics in the Spring!

Message From the Writer

Hi there! I'm Bill. This is the last blog post that I will do as the founder and Project Manager of AutoAquaponics since we are transitioning to new leadership in the Spring so I can (finally) graduate. To our dear readers (whoever you are), I want to personally thank you for reading this blog and keeping up to date with our project. I also want to thank all of my ESWNU teammates (past and present) for sticking with me and spending countless hours building an indoor farming system just because it’s “cool”. Because of them, we were able to turn this simple idea into a fully working system that improves our understanding of aquaponics and teaches children from the Chicagoland area about sustainable agriculture. When I started AutoAquaponics 3 years ago with just 1 other person on Zoom and a Raspberry Pi, I never thought it could’ve had this much impact on Northwestern and become the beautiful community it is now. I was initially motivated by my curiosity and drive to do something different in sustainability, but eventually I realized what made me step through the door of our meeting room week after week were the faces behind it, not the prototypes or circuits we built. It has been a privilege and a gift to lead such an amazing team to tackle this incredibly complex and interdisciplinary project, and seeing younger members’ eyes light up with excitement as they study our fish and the systems we designed to support them has been nothing short of magical. There is still more work to be done with AutoAquaponics, but I know the future is in good hands with our excellent group of new Project Managers and Sub-Team Leaders, many of whom I call my friends. It has been a crazy, rewarding, and at times, difficult ride, but I’m grateful for all of it because of how it shaped me as a person, leader, and engineer for a sustainable world. ESWNU - thanks for the last 4 years, and I love you all <3

Signing off,

Bill Yen

NU - SmartTree: Fall 2022 Update

Added by Fay-Ling Laures 5 months ago

This past quarter, the team made substantial progress in construction and finalized a renewed electrical plan! We’ve been figuring out some new ways to structure and organize our work, including creating electrical and different construction project teams. This quarter, we had a sub team working on using the table side to miter the base piece walls, while another learned the router to be able to cut out triangular base piece lids. The electrical also drafted and approved a new plan, ready to wire next quarter!

team foto

On the construction side of things, this quarter we worked on mitering the side of all the base pieces so that they would fit flush against each other in a triangle shape. After brainstorming and consulting many different Shop Professionals, we determined that no tools could miter such thick wood to our desired 60° cut. The only solution was to build a support that held the pieces vertically upright when clamped to it, so that the table saw only had to cut at a 30° angle. The table saw team received formal training and guidance from Prototyping Shop Professional Scott Simpson, and spent the first few weeks building and testing this support. Once they were familiarized with the tool and setup, the rest of the pieces were a breeze to miter!

At the end of spring quarter, a couple of members received training on the router, however, the machine broke shortly after so we were unable to complete the base piece lids. Thankfully, we got to try again this quarter - some newer members got trained while old members refreshed from ship trainer Sarah Yung. We were able to practice before creating a file to router all 3 of the side base piece lids. We’re currently waiting to assemble and measure exact lengths before creating the middle piece lid (which also requires an indented rim to allow for insulation!).

The last construction decision made was regarding the benches. After realizing the work and materials required to create concrete bench legs using the mold and finding the resulting weight too heavy, we decided to switch to metal (likely aluminum) bench frames. This is both more sustainable and more convenient as it uses less material and can be moved more easily.

Regarding electrical progress, the team met with a professor to revise our out of date electrical diagram. We replaced our original 120V system with a 20V system (low enough voltage to not be harmful to humans), so we no longer have to worry about grounding our structures. Unfortunately, this means that we can no longer incorporate sockets into our design. However, we’ve come up with practical solutions like providing low voltage USB hubs and universal chargers in weather protection boxes. We’ve ordered the necessary components for testing, and can’t wait to start working on it in the winter quarter!

updated electrical

Overall, The project managers Fay-Ling and Thomas are both extremely proud of what the team has accomplished this quarter, and hope to keep the momentum going into winter quarter. Our goal is to finish the base pieces and start on the base plate, the other main component of our structure. We also aim to have a working electrical system by the end of the quarter, so be on the lookout!

Hope everyone has had a great school year and we will touch base soon!

NU - AutoAquaponics: Fall 2022 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Fall of 2022
Added by Bill Yen 5 months ago

AutoAquaponics ended 2022 strong by significantly expanding our membership through increasing the frequencies of our social/recruitment events. In addition, we formed our new Biology sub-team, which aims to improve our understanding of the fish, plants, and microbes in our system so we can make better design decisions. We welcomed Seeley McGillis, Annie Ho, Daniel Soto, Edward Lee, Lianne Kim, Miya Liu, Varoon Enjeti, Zeeshan Razzaq, Andre Chen, Gracelyn Shi, Talia Ben-Naim, Calvin Davies, Jack Doheny, Hannah Wilks, Aliza Campbell, and Kyan Shlipak to our team. We are also honored to receive the continued support of Northwestern's Associated Student Government (ASG) and ESW Global this quarter with the ASG Sustainability Grant and ESW Global Project Grant. In September, we began our partnership with Northwestern's Segal Design Institute by turning the automatic fish feeding part of our project into the capstone assignment for the Interdisciplinary Product Design course.

Beach social:

Making our ESWNU club banner for Homecoming:

Recruiting freshmen at the Morning with McCormick event:

Photo from our Sunday whole-team meetings:

Students hard at work to design our automatic fish feeder for their design capstone;

After their continuous effort over the course of the past year, the software team has successfully launched the AutoAquaponics 2.0 platform, which is a web application that anyone with an Internet connection can access to monitor the state of our system in real-time through the Dashboard tab. Check it out at! Note that the website currently does not support mobile devices or Safari, so users accessing it through these methods may experience some bugs for the time being.

Home Page of our web app:

Dashboard with live data:

The team behind this magic:

Next steps with the AutoAquaponics 2.0 platform would be to add control capabilities in the Settings and Control Panel pages and also a live video stream of the system. The software team will be working closely with the electronics group to make this happen in 2023.

Speaking of the electronics team, they have been focusing their efforts in integrating more sensors into our system and improving their accuracy. They've installed two hall effect flow sensors and a number of analog signal isolators to prevent our pH, TDS, and dissolved oxygen sensors from interfering with one another.

On the plumbing side, we worked on enhancing the performance of our solids removal system by building a bracket for our membrane filters. This is intended to ensure that the filter pads tightly fit around the edge of the filter tank so sediments won’t bypass them through those gaps. We also began using an additional water pump with custom 3D printed outlets to push solids from the corners of our fish tank to the solids lifting overflow (SLO) intake so they can end up in the settling tank. Furthermore, we have been continuously redesigning components like our SLO intake and overflow intake screen to prevent fish from entering while allowing sediments to go through.

New SLO intake screen CAD design:

Installed new overflow screen with side grates:

Members working as a team to prototype their membrane bracket design:

Last but not least, the Biology team made a lot of progress this quarter by introducing a number of new aquatic species to our system. Namely, we've added a red-tailed shark, Raphael catfish, firemouth cichlid, snails, and a number of mollies to the fish tank. We also successfully grew wheatgrass in our media bed to test how different plant types grow in AutoAquaponics while making some healthy green juice at the same time. Due to aggression from some of the fish in the tank, we have seen a couple injured occupants, so we set up a separate quarantine tank to allow them to recover and receive medication if necessary.

Red-tailed shark and Raphael catfish being transported to the tank:

Our new mollies playing with the tiger barbs:

Firemouth cichlid patrolling his new territory:

Wheatgrass' journey from seeds to lawn and finally juice:

Quarantine tank:

We are excited to continue working on AutoAquaponics in 2023. Please stay tuned on our project and feel free to reach out with any questions. If you would like to contribute to our software platform or see our code, take a look at our AutoAquaponics v2.0 GitHub repository. This is an open-source project, so any idea you have would be very welcomed!

Happy New Year from all of us :)

PSU Hydroponic Vertical Farm: Progress Report

Added by ESW PSU 11 months ago

Penn State- Vertical Hydroponic Farm Project Progress Report

Description: The club met every Thursday night for an hour, mostly at Penn State’s Student Farm Greenhouse. The hydroponics project is still in the prototype phase. The prototype has two tiers and can hold 4 plants. We designed the prototype like this because it reduced size and pricing while keeping the main factors that we need to test of the final project in tact. The PVC reservoirs are held in place on the wooden frame by J-hooks. The reservoirs have rubber caps with drilled holes for the solenoids to go into. The solenoids on each end are connected to a hose that uses a 3 way connector to connect the hose back into one stream into the water container, creating a water cycle loop. Our original time line aimed to have the prototype running by February, which did not happen. An aspect that we struggled with was the PVC connections. The solenoids, pump, and reservoir endings were all different sizes, which required us to use many converters. During this time, PVC was hard to come by due to a shortage, but more expensive metal converters were available some of the time. This is one aspect that pushed our timeline back due to the unavailability of essential parts. We also ran into some issues with the electronic aspects. Our group is composed of a wide variety of engineering students, however this does not include an electrical engineering student. We ran into the problem that our pump turns on and off when it is or isn’t plugged in, instead of having an “ON/OFF” switch. Due to this, we needed to create an electrical box to allow the project to function as planned for if the pump did have a switch. This took us a month worth of meetings in order to figure out. Another problem that we ran into is voltage requirements. The solenoids require at the very least 6 volts to open, however, the arduino or raspberry pi were only delivering around 3 volts (we had an arduino donated to us). After trying to work through this problem and reaching out to a few people outside of our group, we attempted to sauder the connection and to use a MOSFET. We found that the metal on the solenoids do not sauder and the MOSFET only barely increased the voltage. This brought us to the end of the school year. With all of these electrical problems, I aim to recruit electrical engineering students to the project during ESW’s general body meeting at the beginning of the fall semester, since this meeting usually brings in a large group. We still plan on donating the structure to a local family or school once it is complete. This will allow more people to be exposed to the practice of vertical hydroponic farming, provide fresh produce, and encourage learning.

Finances: Description Amount Ras Pi $ 49.99 Seeds $ 10.90 Net Pots $ 14.95 Hose Connectors $ 8.15 Hydrogen Peroxide $ 9.16 pH balance $ 15.99 hose adapter $ 8.99 pump $ 54.10 ph meter $ 11.99 Y hose splitter $ 15.99 drilling set $ 9.99 drill $ 34.99 j hooks $ 5.20 pvc pipe $ 14.24 end cap $ 2.60 pvc cement $ 5.94 hose $ 19.98 pvc adapter $ 1.71 rubber cap $ 9.10 adapter $ 4.12 rubber cap $ 5.14 electrical $ 12.66 solenoids $ 39.63 adapters $ 7.01 wires $ 7.49 SD card $ 12.49 relay $ 5.50 hose $ 12.99 wire connectors $ 8.99 adapter $ 7.99 power supply $ 9.99 mosfet $ 8.99 adapter $ 15.98 wire connectors $ 6.79 Pre tax total $ 469.72 Post tax total $ 497.90

Remaining: $503

NU - SmartTree: Spring 2022 Update

Added by Thomas Hoang 12 months ago

Transitioning to new leadership has led to SmartTree having a slower start to a quarter. However, both the new PMs, Fay-Ling and Thomas, quickly found their rhythm and excellent progress was made, especially on the construction side. While still trying to finish off the base pieces from last quarter, the team also started focusing on the manufacturing process of benches and top pieces.

Regarding progress toward the base pieces, the team has shifted their focus to making brackets reinforcing and connecting the side pieces. We drilled holes into the 90-degree brackets and metal sheets cut to size last quarter, countersunk them, and bent said metal sheets into 60-degree brackets.

Bending the metal sheets was especially challenging due to an oversight of high-strength galvanized steel used as stock material. It was too thick and tough for the machines available in the Prototyping Workshop at Ford Design Center. After consulting with the shop professionals, we were directed to Salomon Rodriguez, the director of the Research Workshop at Technological Institute, who aided us through the building process and granted us access to a more powerful machine that could get the job done. Here we also realized the problem of not having a clear angle to screw wood screws directly through the brackets into the base pieces, so we quickly came up with a new plan to use machine screws and acorn nuts instead.

The construction team also worked on the top pieces, which are 4 simple triangular-shaped pieces with one of them having a special indent from the side to create a removable lid (see drawing below).

Due to the size and shape of the piece, we had concluded that the best way to manufacture the part was to use a router. None of the members had used it before, so we enlisted the help of formula team member Sarah Yung. Because of our inexperience, we entered the wrong measurements for the drawing fed into the machine, so the piece that was cut had incorrect dimensions. On the day that we tried again, we heard news of the miter going under maintenance for the rest of the quarter. Though unfortunate, we are still looking forward to next year when we will successfully manufacture the top pieces.

Good progress was also made on the benches. We started the quarter off by cutting rectangular wood pieces into long, thin slats using the vertical bandsaw. Then, we enlisted the help of the campus’s Concrete Canoe team with creating concrete slabs acting as support for the benches according to the mold bought. A concrete mixture was created and poured into the mold at the last meeting of the quarter. The mixture is now being cured over the summer and we are expecting to return to fully cured, sturdy concrete supports ready for decorations next fall.

In terms of electrical, progress has been slow due to the waiting for ordered parts to arrive. Furthermore, due to inexperience, there was hesitation to wire anything together with a power source for safety concerns. However, we have connected the solar panels together in parallel and tested the DC/DC converter and its capability to charge phones. The electrical team members have been tasked with doing more research on solar power over the summer and are hopeful to have major development upon return.

Overall, Fay-Ling and Thomas are both extremely satisfied with the results achieved throughout this quarter as first-time project managers. Both are excited to continue leading the team and to advance the project further throughout the next year.

Hope everyone has had a great school year and we will touch base soon!

NU - AutoAquaponics: Spring 2022 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Spring of 2022
Added by Bill Yen 12 months ago

After 2 years of hard work, we are happy to announce that AutoAquaponics is officially growing fish and plants! At the same time, we welcome Alejandra Almonte, a third-year mechanical engineer, to our electronics sub-team. We are also honored to be featured in Northwestern's Earth Day special this quarter as a student group that works to build innovative technologies to improve sustainability on campus. Here's a picture of our (now operational) system as well as our fish friends:

We introduced 35 tiger barbs to our system and will likely add more to up our nitrate production:

Centerpiece fish - a South American cichlid known as the green terror cichlid! Our fish is a juvenile and will grow to around 10".

On the produce side, we planted kale on the top grow bed and basil + cilantro on the bottom:

This quarter, we completed building the floating raft necessary for our deep water culture grow bed and 3D printed various components to keep our hydrocorn growth media from entering our PVC pipes for our bottom media grow bed. Below is a top view of the system showing both our grow beds, and a closeup of what the bottom grow bed looks like before planting with our two 3D printed screens keeping our inlet and outlet pipes clear of the media.

Speaking of 3D printing, our plumbing team also created a number of custom parts for our fish tank that does everything from improving our solids management to keeping fish and fish food where they are supposed to be! They made a fitting for our 1" solids lifting overflow that lets us suck water from the very bottom of the tank where fish waste sinks to. The team also designed a feeding ring that we placed under where our automatic fish feeder dispenses food so that the floating flakes wouldn't get sucked into the overflow skimmer in the tank. On top of that, a carefully designed screen on the overflow prevents our fish from making their way into the filter bottles without throttling our flow too much (can be seen in top view above). Lastly, by taking advantage of our fluid mechanics knowledge, we designed a venturi aerator for our top grow bed that can keep the deep water culture plant roots oxygenated without adding any moving components/electrical parts to the system.

Feeding ring:

Venturi aerator that injects small bubbles into the water whenever the pump forces water through it:

In addition to 3D printing, the plumbing team leveraged other rapid prototyping techniques like laser cutting to build larger screens for our biofilm reactor bottle. Earlier in the quarter, we ran into issues with our moving K1 media clogging up the reactor's drainage pipe screen as we increased flow, so we decided to cut a large screen to segregate the media to the top 2/3rd of the bottle. Since the surface area of the new screen is so big, the relative hydraulic resistance caused by the media pushing up against it became much smaller, allowing us to nearly double our flow rate without causing the tank to overflow.

Team member operating the laser cutter to cut a large sheet of acrylic into the exact shape we need:

Finished product:

Screen installed with some spare filter pad to fill the gap and zip tie to put everything together:

A couple weeks into the quarter, the plumbing team also realized that the Home Depot bucket we used as the stand for the biofilm reactor tank began to crack. Despite trying to salvage it by riveting acrylic supports to it, the cracks kept on growing:

After careful assessments, we decided to scrap the bucket and build a custom stand out of wood instead. If anyone is interested in using 5 gallon water jugs as filters for aquaponics/aquaculture, this is what we recommend since the Home Depot buckets we tried earlier are much more flimsy (though they do look cooler and are less time-intensive to build).

Members draining the biofilm reactor to remove the bucket stand:

Cutting wood and drilling holes for new stand!

Spot our beautiful orthographic drawing on the bottom left corner of this picture :)

Coated with more epoxy and let it cure to make the stand waterproof:

On the software and electronics side, we continued to make improvements on our control system. Right now we have our smart outlet box running numerous lights and motorized ball valves on timers to automate the flood/drain and lighting cycles. However, we currently cannot toggle these settings from our GUI, so our electronics team members are continuing to build the version of our software that will allow us to toggle our devices and adjust their timer settings through the GUI itself so that remote control can be possible. Because the front end of our Python GUI is mostly done, our software team is pivoting to creating AutoAquaponics 2.0, an exciting new version of our software that upgrades our graphical user interface from a Python application to a full-fledged website! With AutoAquaponics 2.0, anyone would be able to log onto our website with their Google accounts and check out how AutoAquaponics is doing at Northwestern by seeing our live sensor plots and live stream video. Members who have advanced access associated with their Google accounts would also be able to adjust system parameters on our website and see that change happen in real time. The biggest benefit this shift from a local Python GUI to a website has would be offloading the GUI processing task from our little Raspberry Pi to the cloud, which will drastically improve system performance. It would also allow for more flexible layouts and new exciting features, so stay tuned for more as we continue to work on this next iteration of our software!

Sneak peek to what 2.0 will look like:

Since AutoAquaponics' ultimate goal is to become a resource for those interested in learning more about automation and aquaponics, this quarter we conducted a tour for a junior chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers and invited middle schoolers from Evanston to check out our system. It was amazing seeing their reaction to what we built together, and we thank NSBE and McCormick for this awesome opportunity!

Furthermore, the one and only Dean Ottino asked three of the leaders in AutoAquaponics to present our project and how we grew from the small team we had during COVID to our present state to the McCormick Advisory Council, a group of prominent alumni who advises the dean to shape McCormick's strategy. We are beyond honored to be able to show them AutoAquaponics, and we appreciate everyone's enthusiasm on our project!

Our three presenters all dressed up:

After the presentation, we received an invite from one of the board members present to visit Farm on Ogden , a nonprofit commercial scale aquaponic system in Chicago that is affiliated with the Chicago Botanic Garden. It was super cool seeing how their system works, and we got a ton of useful insight from the professionals there on the O&M of an aquaponic system and ideal plant parameters.

To further build the camaraderie on the AutoAquaponics team, we did two pizza sales to raise money for some cool ESW-AutoAquaponics hoodies for our members.

Sale 1 (slightly colder weather):

Sale 2 (we could finally be outside now!):

Hoodie design front & back (ESW logo in the front, AutoAquaponics' official logo on the back):

hoodie1 hoodie2

End of the year team photo featuring our new hoodies:

Before we wrap up this end of the year blog, we want to congratulate our friend and team member Sandra Chiu for completing her last quarter on Northwestern campus! Sandra will be studying abroad next year in Copenhagen and graduating in Spring of 2023. She has been an integral part of AutoAquaponics' development and contributed ever since our fully-remote days by designing/building our electronics box, secondary containment berm, fish tank, and grow bed. Sandra also served as the main lead for our automatic water tester sub-project, which we hope to complete next school year. Last but not least, Sandra was the aesthetics consultant of AutoAquaponics, and is responsible for not only the color layout of our fish tank/grow beds but also our official logo. We are grateful for the time Sandra spent with us, and we wish her the best in her future endeavors!


That is it from AutoAquaponics this school year. Thank you for your support as always, and keep an eye out for more from us in the Fall!

NU - SmartTree: Winter 2022 Update

Added by Katie Lev about 1 year ago

Between the first two weeks being virtual and the shop being closed off to non-DTC students at the end of the quarter, SmartTree made excellent strides in the construction and electrical groups. The construction team was only permitted 4 shop sessions, so we'd use the other weeks prior to review the construction plan and decide what needed to be done in the shop. In the shop, the team became increasingly independent, which made SmartTree PM's Cally and Katie extremely proud. Members returned to the table saw to cut the final base piece wood sheets to dimension as well as cut the bench slats using a 96" piece of wood!! Learning how to use the machine to the full capacity, members gained they'll be able to take with them to future shop builds. Additionally, all members learned how to use the jigsaw to cut out the circular shapes for wire holes as well as the complex geometries for the inner face of the base pieces (blueprint seen below).

The center hole of the circle requires a smooth finish because members may need to fit a body or an arm through the holes to fix wiring. Thus, members tried multiple methods to find the best method for sanding. At first, they tried to use a classic orbit sander, but this became hard around the edges. After consulting a shop specialist, we tried to use an oscillating spindle sander. This machine had functional issues, so then another shop specialist directed us to a small handheld belt sander which did the job very well. Now, all the wood pieces requiring the smooth finish are sanded. A video is attached below as a shared link to our drive

In our last session, members learned how to cut metal sheets and brackets. Each wooden connection requires a reinforcement in form of metal brackets. We have 90 degree angles and a metal sheet we plan on bending to a custom 60 degrees to reinforce to converging wooden base piece faces. A foot shear was used for the metal sheet, and a metal bandsaw was used for the 90 degree angles. After cutting the angles to dimension, we smoothed them with a belt sander.

Then, there was a whole lot done for the electrical side as well. We reviewed and finalized plans with hopes to construct at the beginning of the Spring. The team reconfigured and simplified an old bill of materials that optimized cost and reliability. We are very excited for the electrical team to get the same hands-on experience as the construction team when the materials arrive.

Finally, we have appointed two new project managers. Cally and Katie are very honored to announce new PM's Fay-Ling Laures and Thomas Huang to continue SmartTrees progress! Fay-Ling (Class of '25) is a natural leader and has been part of our construction team. She takes what she is taught and runs with it, asks the necessary questions and will be starting as a shop trainer next quarter. We are excited to have her expertise spread to our entire team! Thomas (Class of '25) is another natural leader and has been one of the most committed of SmartTree upon his arrival. He's part of both construction and electrical teams, holding great knowledge in both fields. Having knowledgeable leaders in both fields will allow for more effective meetings and progress.

Cally and Katie could not have been happier with the commitment from our team, having multiple applications for the role of project manager. As time progresses, members have gained confidence and autonomy, which has leading to a more cohesive, close-knit team working together with a common goal of assembling SmartTree!

Follow the link to view a few videos recorded over this past quarter: .

We will check back after the Spring quarter with another update on construction and electrical. Have a great Spring, everyone!


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