Fall 2021 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Fall of 2021
Added by ESW NU over 2 years ago

AutoAquaponics kicked off the year with a strong start and greatly expanded the number of first and second year students on our team. This quarter we welcomed Spencer Huie, Lester Tai, Yanni Wilcox, Ian Viegas, Vianey Guadian, Anabel Sanchez, Ellie Lind, and Ally Lazar to the team, and we were finally able to have in-person meetings for the first time. We were also recognized in a variety of Northwestern press such as the NU Declassified: Exploring Engineering podcast, The Daily Northwestern's article on climate advocates on campus, and the official McCormick School of Engineering Fall 2021 Magazine for the unique projects and welcoming communities we created. As a result of increasing membership and the solid foundation established by our existing member's research and design, AutoAquaponics was able to achieve the following in each of the sub-teams:


  • Reattached a glass panel to the fish tank and successfully water testing the tank (it holds water with no leak!!!)

  • Completed a secondary containment berm around the entire aquaponic system with a combination of laser-cut clips, waterproof tarp, 3D printed brackets, and leftover plywood to prevent minor spills from reaching the carpet

*Big thanks to SmartTree members for helping us clear the room so we can slide the containment berm under both of our shelves!

  • Plumbed the grow beds and the fish tank together with PVC pipes and bulkheads

  • Redesigned the water filtration system to decrease the flow rate to the settling tank to boost efficiency

  • Designed a color scheme to paint the grow bed and fish tank (stay tuned for next quarter's blog to see what it looks like :D )


  • Resolved the common issue of TDS sensors shorting pH ion selective electrodes and affecting each other's values

  • Created a concept and began 3D printing parts for a 2-motor design for the automatic water tester

  • Generated part of the CAD for a new outlet box enclosure that will allow for energy monitoring and a switch to enable "programming" mode for the ESP32
  • Tested mixing mechanism with magnetic stirrers for the automatic water tester reagents
  • Debugged automatic fish feeder stepper motor issues


  • Resolved GUI crashing issue and memory build-up from matplotlib
  • Reduced system lag by decreasing plotting frequency
  • Created a branch of the main repository to experiment with using blitting to speed up plotting speed
  • Train new members on Python programming, specifically how to use TKinter to create graphical user interface

The system design went through quite a few changes due to our recent discovery that indexing valves do not work as well as we thought (special shoutout to Kaitlyn Hung for leading the team on troubleshooting the valve and communicating with the manufacturer!), so we will instead be using two solenoids to control which grow bed gets water. Luckily, our electronics team was able to make the necessary (although slightly painful) adjustments to accommodate for the additional actuators we need to control. Next quarter, the team will aim to completely finish the outlet box (software and hardware portions), solenoid installation, and water filtration system so we can do a trial run of everything before Spring Break.

Photo of a now in-person AutoAquaponics whole-team meeting:

ESWNU team photo (includes our friends from SmartTree and the ESWNU exec board!):

Fun picture - the new official AutoAquaponics logo (designed by Sandra Chiu) on vinyl stickers that our members can use to show off their ESW pride:

Thank you for your support, and keep an eye out for more from AutoAquaponics in the Winter!

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