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NU - SmartTree: Summer 2021 Update

Added by Katie Lev about 1 month ago

Even during the summer, SmartTree has continued to make progress on our structure! We are hopeful to begin manufacturing this upcoming quarter, so SmartTree’s project managers (Katie and Callista) decided to meet weekly for the last two months to finalize unfinished details from the spring.

A major portion of the work completed this summer consisted of Katie and Callista printing out CAD drawings for each part, previously completed by our team members in the spring, and then discussing each part individually. These conversations consisted of finalizing dimensions, manufacturing feasibility and material choice. They also spent a significant amount of time focusing on the top and bottom locking mechanisms, a topic of long discussion in the spring as the previous plans were not as feasible to manufacture as anticipated. Thus, our project managers came up with an alternate plan that they are going to propose to our teammates: create a metal-platform base with a 15 degree angled wooden wedge to hold an umbrella pier base for a pole of 3”.

Speaking of 3” poles, that is another big change that occurred this summer. Previously, SmartTree was planning on using a pole of a larger diameter; however, locating such a pole, especially one to fit our pier base plan for the locking mechanisms, does not exist. After doing some mathematical analysis, modeling the pole as a fixed-fixed beam with gravity and weather loads, Katie and Callista concluded making the pole size 3” with an inner diameter of 2.5” would not significantly decrease the structural integrity of SmartTree.

Katie and Callista also discussed the base pieces and base plates, or the giant triangular focus of the structure and its foundational element. First, they decided that the entire base plate (foundation) would be allowable to slice into 4 modular puzzle pieces rather than 8. Four pieces will not be unmanageable to manufacture nor move, and 8 pieces would lead to more complex tolerancing. For the base pieces (triangular center of structure), the lid for the center will fit on top of the triangular piece encapsulating the electrical home of the structure and will have no taper as water could perform capillary action and trap itself in the wood. The connection between the lid and center base piece walls will be lined with rubber to prevent water from seeping inside.

More minor decisions were considered this summer, all summarized on a spreadsheet placed in our shared team folder for easy reference. All general meetings between the project managers were also carefully recorded in our team’s meeting minutes folder. Katie and Callista are excited for team input and for the soon-approaching manufacturing phase! OH! And how could we forget… we now have a MINI-SCALED MODEL of our structure!!!! After Katie and Callista redid the CAD for each piece, Callista put extra hours in Ford Design Center printing each part. This model is supposed to act as a method for our new and returning members to better understand the structure. It sure helped our project managers identify missed details and holes within the project…

Hope everyone is having an amazing rest of their summer, and we will touch base once again this coming fall with even more updates on our structure!


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Texas A&M Greenhouse Air Analyzer: Summer 2021 Update

Added by Jenny Vu 3 months ago

During the spring semester, we were able to order all of our materials, and we began to work on the temperature and humidity sensors. We also welcomed a new member, Sam Donoho, to the team. So, now we have the members Joey, Sam, and Jenny working on sensors, and Nick and Kristen working on the assembly and installation at the greenhouses. We have been able to successfully link cameras to the sensor where it can output the data automatically into a google drive or manually to as an email.

We have made a change to our original plan as we have been advised that the air level sensors aren't as accurate and instead measuring light levels will be more beneficial to the greenhouses. Now we are looking into photo diodes and seeing how we can make a more cost friendly one that is within our original budget. However, it is a new area for all of the members, so we are still unsure on what to do.

We are now planning to complete this project by winter 2021 as all the members will be back on campus to install the components at the greenhouses, and the light levels sensors and bug density sensors will be completed by then.

Educational Wind Turbine: Summer 2021 Update

Added by ESW Akron OH 3 months ago

The University of Akron’s Educational Wind Turbine Design Team’s goal is to produce a functional wind turbine with the purpose of showing the availability and practicality of wind energy. This team formed in January of 2021 and has made a lot of progress throughout the Spring 2021 and Summer 2021 semesters.

Progress made during during Spring and Summer 2021 include:

  • General research of current small scale wind turbines that produce about 300 Watts of power.
    • Considerable research was conducted in order to see how current small scale wind turbines are constructed.
    • Individuals independently researched and shared results on specific components including blades, generators, batteries, and towers.
  • Generator selected and purchased.
    • We found that many people repurpose permanent magnet motors and use them as generators for wind turbines and even hydro turbines.
  • Battery selected and acquired.
    • We determined that a 12 volt deep-cycle battery would be best for our project.
  • Blades selected
    • We looked into many ways of fabricating our own blades, but after understanding the requirements for each design it was decided to purchase blades that will sweep an area 62" in diameter.
  • Tower design and general layout of turbine revised
    • The tower has been designed to be easy to put up, safe, and cost effective.
    • The base of the tower pivots for raising the turbine.
    • The turbine will be able to turn into the wind as the top of the turbine is connected as a sleeve rather than rigidly.
    • It will be roughly 10 feet tall and be held securely in place through stakes at the base and at the end of the guy lines.

In the Fall 2021 semester, the Wind Turbine Team plans to:

  • Acquire the chosen blades
  • Finalize tower design and purchase materials
  • Purchase required wiring and electronics
  • Construct the wind turbine

General layout of the proposed wind turbine.

The Educational Wind Turbine Team

NU - AutoAquaponics: Spring 2021 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Spring of 2021
Added by Bill Yen 4 months ago

This quarter marks the 1-year anniversary of AutoAquaponics! Our work is far from over, but we have gone quite a long way from where we started with the outstanding innovation and determination of our members and the great support we have received from both Northwestern and ESW Global. Throughout this past year, we have been fortunate enough to be featured on a number of Northwestern's media as a result of our work. Check them out here:

  • McCormick Engineering Magazine, Spring 2021 (we made the back cover!)
  • The Daily Northwestern discussed how AutoAquaponics received funding from NU's Associated Student Government grant, which was put in place to eliminate barriers for students with creative projects
  • Northwestern's One McCormick webinar featured us as one of the leading student groups who continued to engage students in the NU community despite the COVID-19 pandemic

Now on to project updates, AutoAquaponics finished the year strong by completing the following during Spring Quarter:

  • Two 40 gallon grow beds that hold water
  • The structure and waterproof coating of our 110 gallon fish tank
  • A stand capable of supporting the full weight (~1000 lbs) of our fish tank
  • 3D CAD model of the entire plumbing system minus the PVC pipes
  • New features on our GUI program - export/indexing data by time and also more Control Panel subpages!
  • Approximately half of the controlling software that will allow us to toggle our remote-controlled outlet box and set it on a timer via Bluetooth Low Energy and an ESP32

This quarter we also welcomed Johnny Chen, Jake Turner, and Kayd Bhagat to our Electronics (Johnny) and Plumbing (Jake and Kayd) teams. They have all made tremendous contributions to the design and construction aspects of our project, and we're super excited to have them be part of AutoAquaponics! Over the summer, a few of us will continue to chug along with the plumbing and software portion of this project. We've plugged a number of lights into our remote-controlled outlet box and angled the camera attached to our Raspberry Pi at those devices so our Software/Electronics member can work on timing actuators and see them work in real time wherever they are.

What our setup in the club room looks like (camera is taped to cabinet on the right, and the outlet box/lights are on the left):

office_setup

What members can see on our GUI (controlled devices are circled in red):

New feature on our GUI program - export/index data as CSV or plot them for further analysis:

The user interface we hope to integrate so that each light can be set on a timer:

Close-up view of the outlet box with an ESP32 microcontroller inside and a 16 channel relay:

outlet box

On the plumbing side, we've spent a lot of our effort completing the epoxy coatings on the two grow beds, water testing them, and building the fish tank. Building the fish tank was especially challenging, as most of our lumber and plywood arrived warped, which meant that our pieces would not match up well unless we bent each of them straight. This was achieved through a series of clamps and a lot of determination, and in the end we were able to ensure that the structure of the tank is strong enough to resist water pressure. All that's left for the fish tank now is to install a sheet of glass to cover up the cutout window on the front panel. At the same time we were doing physical construction, we were also creating a 3D CAD model of our overall system to help estimate our PVC pipe requirements later on. Enjoy these pictures of our construction process below, and a detailed tutorial of how we built these tanks will be released upon the completion of this project!

CAD of our entire system minus the PVC pipes:

It was important for us to sand/vacuum all the surfaces we applied epoxy to so that it adheres properly:

Our team member filling up our two grow beds to an appropriate depth and checking for leaks:

Our fish tank's humble beginning as pieces of lumber and sheets of plywood:

Cutting a window cutout on the front plywood panel with a jigsaw for our eventual glass installation:

Putting the tank together piece by piece:

Look at all the different types of clamps we used!

Completed back frame of the fish tank. The thick lumber support will prevent our plywood from bowing out from the water pressure:

We coating the inside of our fish tank with the same non-toxic, low VOC epoxy we coated our grow beds with. It took many coats and a lot of sanding/waiting for the epoxy to dry, but the gorgeous, glossy surface we ended up with made it worth it.

Coat 1, with just enough epoxy to soak into the wood and provide a good surface for later coats to bond to:

Having fun while painting:

The seams of the fish tank were reinforced with epoxy-saturated fiberglass to prevent water from escaping through the gaps between our plywood pieces (check out how shiny our dried epoxy looks!):

After we finished coating the fish tank, we attempted to install our fish tank glass. Unfortunately, we did not apply enough silicone to fill up all the gap between the glass and the front wood panel, which resulted in the tank leaking. We will be reinstalling a fresh piece of glass in the Fall with ample silicone to finish up the fish tank.

Fish tank after first glass installation attempt:

Our semi-completed fish tank (glass removed) stacked on the fish tank stand with our grow beds and sump tank:

A detailed list of our goals for the Summer and Fall can be found in our Project Completion Plan below, which we formulated for the ESW Project Grant committee. Northwestern is projected to return to all in-person mode in September, so we are optimistic that we will be able to get more timeslots in the machine shop and finish building everything we need. We are looking forward to having the first AutoAquaponics prototype up and running by the end of December. As always, we really appreciate your support, and please keep an eye out for more updates from us!

Not pictured: Raymonde Council, Jake Turner, Kayd Bhagat, Anna Lis

NU - SmartTree: Spring 2021 Update

Added by ESW NU 4 months ago

SmartTree_design

Despite remaining virtual throughout the duration of the Spring 2021 quarter, SmartTree continued to expand our group members and progress with our prototype by reviewing and finalizing the structure’s design in anticipation of physical prototype building in September. Callista Sukohardjo and Katie Lev were appointed as the newest co-project managers, filling the big shoes of former PMs Bryan Horn and Lauren Simitz. We welcomed back returning members along with a few new ones; our team now consists of Katie, Callista, Bryan along with Kai Veitinger, Polen Ton, Kane Feldman, Jason Jarrold-Grapes, Jake Turner and Ethan Zimmerman! Throughout the first few weeks of the quarter, our team learned how to create engineering drawings in Siemens NX software and the importance of geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), having had both Bryan and Callista lead a brief session early in the quarter covering the basics of GD&T so that our team could apply these skills to our SmartTree project. Each member was then given the opportunity to apply these newfound skills by creating an engineering drawing of one component of the current SmartTree design. Below is a sample drawing of the foundation of our structure to be made of aluminum sheets:

Basepiece_drawing

Once the initial drawings were completed, each one went through several rounds of critiquing during group meetings, which aided in facilitating a continued dialogue on improving specific part designs. This process in particular helped our team identify flaws in logic or design that may have been previously overlooked or oversimplified in order to avoid costly mistakes during manufacturing later on. Currently, all that is still up to deliberation is the mechanism SmartTree is planning on using to access the electrical center from the top of the structure. Additionally, team members worked together to create manufacturing plans for each part, all of which were discussed during our weekly meetings. SmartTree would also like to personally acknowledge the help we have received from several members of the Northwestern community. Serving as a Northwestern Professor and ESWNU’s academic advisor, Harold Kung has given us much assistance and general advice on ways to approach the ultimate build tentatively starting this fall. Salomon Rodriguez, Northwestern Student Shop Manager, personally advised us on manufacturing queries SmartTree ran into during previous discussions. Bonnie Humphrey, NU Director of Design & Construction, and Stephen Camburn, NU Groundskeeper Assistant Foreman, helped us find great potential locations for our future prototypes. Among the list are East Tech Plaza, front of Mudd Library and the top lawn of Norris.

Overall the progress made during Spring 2021 was vital in our development of the SmartTree and ensured that we were all able to collaborate in a virtual environment and still make progress towards manufacturing our prototype in the near future. We now look forward to Fall 2021 where we hope to start manufacturing some of the key components of our SmartTree!

NU - AutoAquaponics: Winter 2021 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Winter of 2021
Added by Bill Yen 7 months ago

Now that the majority of our team members have returned to Northwestern's campus, AutoAquaponics has shifted its focus to building the plumbing and electronics portion of this project. We also welcomed Marcos, Anna, and Kaitlyn to our team, and we were thrilled to have them join this quarter and contribute to AutoAquaponics both virtually and in person. As a result of everyone's effort, we successfully manufactured two 24 gallon grow beds out of lumber and plywood. In Spring quarter, we will coat the grow beds with epoxy to waterproof them and get them ready for our plants, and build a much larger, 110 gallon container out of glass and wood for our fish tank.

Everyone helping to clear out space and unload materials for our system:

Team members working hard to build the two grow beds:

Completed product:

On top of plumbing construction, we also continued developing the electronic hardware portion of AutoAquaponics, namely a remote controlled outlet strip and an automatic water tester. Next quarter, we will aim to integrate these to our Raspberry Pi's GUI program by having the Raspberry Pi communicate with a number of ESP32 microcontrollers via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). As a result, we will be able to cut down on the amount of hardwiring we have to do and have a more modular and reliable system.

3D printed prototype of a peristaltic pump that can dispense very precise amount of water:

Raspberry Pi controlled outlet strip turning grow lights, heaters, and fans on and off fully automatically:

While the Plumbing and Electronics team rolled up their sleeves for construction, the Software team continued to add more functionalities to the AutoAquaponics GUI. This quarter, we completed the Settings page of the program, which allows the user to specify their preferred environmental parameters, and receive text messages when the detected parameters are not within the "safe" level. They can also enter their email to receive a weekly summary of what the state of the system is. In addition, we began adding subpages that the user can use to control the actuators in the aquaponic system. Eventually, we plan to have one subpage per actuator in the system so users can change their settings to whatever they like without needing to code.

Completed Settings page:

Water Pump page users can utilize to control the system's water pump:

Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for more from NU AutoAquaponics next quarter!

NU - AutoAquaponics: Fall 2020 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Fall of 2020
Added by Bill Yen 10 months ago

Northwestern continued its online mode for the Fall of 2020 and kept its first and second years off-campus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that did not stop us from our goal of turning AutoAquaponics into reality! Over the course of this quarter, AutoAquaponics was able to secure both the Wild Ideas Grant (courtesy of the NU Associate Student Government) and the McCormick Student Advisory Grant. Furthermore, we were able to expand our team from just seven people to a total of fourteen members as a result of our recruitment effort. Shoutouts to Daniel, Sandra, Ray, Allison, Larina, David, Ben, and Louis for all of their outstanding contribution during their first quarter in AutoAquaponics! Since many of our new members are CS majors, we have been able to significantly progress the software aspect of our project, and have completed a new Video Stream page in our graphical user interface (GUI) program on top of revamping the Dashboard and Settings page to run even faster and with another cool feature - text messages! With the implementation of sendtext.py into the GUI, users can now input their preferred phone numbers and carriers to receive real-time warning messages when one of the six sensors connected to our Raspberry Pi detects unsafe conditions (defined by the user in Settings). We are also redoing our Control Panel page to make it even more user-friendly and accommodate a slew of new features we hope to implement on the electronics side. For more detail on what our program is capable of doing right now, check out the README in our GitHub repository.

New GUI Dashboard:

Video Stream page displaying live feed from our Raspberry Pi's camera:

New Control Panel format with a sneak peak to what future actuators we will include:

Speaking of sensors and cool features, our Electronics Team has also been hard at work with improving the hardware side of our AutoAquaponics prototype. Namely, we have completed a fully functional environmental monitoring system that works in conjunction with the software described above to log and display sensor values on our GUI. This quarter, we added a bunch of new sensors (measuring water level, water temperature, air temperature, relative humidity, and total dissolved solids on top of our existing pH sensor) to the Raspberry Pi, and put everything together in a laser-cut electronics box that we designed and built remotely. The sensors that we implemented are currently being tested in an existing aquaponic system at the home of one of our members. In addition to developing the “eyes” of AutoAquaponics, we are also working on building a number of actuators, which includes a Raspberry Pi controlled outlet strip, an automatic fish feeder, an atmospheric water generator, and an automatic water tester to help us do water tests for chemicals that are hard for our sensors to detect (nitrate, ammonia, etc.). Similar to the electronics box, we are approaching these builds completely remotely with CAD, home prototyping, and 3D printing/laser cutting. Since most of our members cannot be on campus to build things in the shop, our off-campus members made CAD files instead and sent those to our on-campus collaborators for 3D printing.

Laser-cut electronics box with water resistant sensor ports:

3D printed automatic fish feeder that can dispense food based on weight:

One of our members doing some soldering at home for the outlet strip build:

Finally, our Plumbing sub-team has been continuously refining our overall plumbing schematic, and has successfully been paired with an industry mentor from the ESW Mentorship Program to aid in the design of our overall system and filter. We are now in the process of sourcing materials to build our fish tank, determining what fish species to stock our tank with, and coming up with a clog-free filter intake design. In the Winter, we aim to begin building our overall system, starting with the plywood aquarium.

Overall system/plumbing schematic:

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for our update next quarter!

NU - AutoAquaponics: Summer 2020 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Summer of 2020
Added by Bill Yen about 1 year ago

Being the first full "quarter" the AutoAquaponics project is in operation, we were happy to welcome Jazmyn Lu, Christian Colon, Mady Corrigan, Niv Landau, and Diogo Costa to join the team with existing members Mark Galperin and Bill Yen. Being a team that worked completely remotely with members from 4 different time zones (CST, EST, China Standard Time, Western European Summer Time), we faced some logistical challenges. However, we were still able to meet and communicate on a regular basis to develop the software, electronics, and plumbing aspects of AutoAquaponics. At the start of the summer, we mainly focused on the software aspect of this project, and continued to develop a control system program with a graphical user interface that runs on Raspberry Pi using Python. We added settings functionality to the program that allows the user to set the minimum and maximum levels of various water parameters (temperature, pH, TDS, etc.). If the detected value surpasses that bound, then the graph on the GUI turns red, and the user receives a text message from the Raspberry Pi. In addition, we’ve built the UI for the control panel page to the program that will eventually allow users to toggle a Raspberry Pi controlled power strip remotely. The setting and data logging functionality were all being done using CSV files for the summer, and our goal for the Fall is to transition the saved data/configurations to SQLite in order to boost system performance on the Raspberry Pi.

GUI Dashboard (green graph means everything is normal):

Remotely accessing the GUI displaying live data from an iPhone:

Control Panel that will be used to toggle a Raspberry Pi controlled power strip:

Settings page to set the data boundaries:

On the electronics side of the project, we have designed a 16-outlet power strip that can be controlled through the GPIO pins from our Raspberry Pi, and we are currently in the process of applying for funding from the Associate Student Government in order to purchase the materials needed to build the device. Despite many of our members being sophomores and not able to come to campus, we have devised a plan to ship materials to team members, have them build their respective parts, and then ship the parts to one person for assembly. Because some of our members will have access to an established aquaponic system near campus, we plan to deploy our sensor there to test both their performance and longevity. We have a few new sensors that are scheduled to arrive early October, and we are also planning on applying for more funding in order to expand our available materials. The goal for the electronics team in the Fall is to (1) build a Raspberry Pi controlled power strip, (2) build a preliminary housing device for the sensor probes and Raspberry Pi in order to protect them from water/debris as we deploy them in the existing aquaponic system.

Current electronics setup with a Raspberry Pi, an ADC chip, and pH probe:

Last but not least, our plumbing design team came up with a system design for the overall structure of AutoAquaponics, and we are now in the process of turning that design into a 3D CAD model to help us finalize on the exact components we need and streamline the construction process. Since only two of our members are upperclassmen, we expect the bulk of the plumbing construction to occur in the Winter when we will hopefully have more members back on campus. We have included some structural materials (plywood for fish tank construction) in our grant applications, however, so we will also try to begin building this quarter if funding becomes available.

Example of a system component we created in CAD (fish tank we aim to build out of coated plywood and a glass sheet for the window cutout):

Stay tuned for more updates as we expand our team in the Fall and continue to build our system!

Pictured: Top row: Jazmyn Lu, Christian Colon, Mark Galperin Bottom row: Mady Corrigan, Bill Yen, Niv Landau Not Pictured: Diogo Costa

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