For the second assignment in the freshman design seminar for W 2016, I had students look on the web for ideas for projects they might want to do. I had set up the theme as “thrift store science”: do-it-yourself lab equipment of quality suitable for middle school or high school labs (though not necessarily with the durability that school lab equipment usually needs), but students were not restricted to the theme.
I’ve collected here the ideas students submitted, in the order they were turned in. Only 9/13 of the class had them turned in on time—I worry about the other 4. Two of them turned in theirs late (12 and 14 hours late), but the other two haven’t turned theirs in yet as this post is being published.
Perhaps I should make sure that the slow four pair up with each other for the projects, so that they don’t drag down the students who do their work on time. I’m not a believer in pairing strong students with weak students, since that usually results in the strong student doing all the work (and hating group projects) and the weak student learning nothing other than how to shirk work—a life skill that they probably already have enough experience in.
There was a bit too heavy reliance this year on instructables.com—although that site has a number of decent projects, the format restrictions of the site mean that a lot of the better projects never get submitted there, but appear on individual blogs, Arduino forums, or other specialized sites. There is enough representation of these other sources that I don’t need to discuss search strategies in class for everyone, but those students who only looked at instructables probably need to improve their internet search skills.
I’ve added my own comments to a few of the ideas in green, otherwise the text is from the students.
Maroon comments were from students other than the one submitting the original project, due 2016 Jan 23.
Here is my list of project ideas:
– DIY heart beat sensor tutorial using an arduino board
Optical pulse monitors are a doable project for this course—several students did them last year, and they are a one-week lab in the Applied Electronics course.
http://makezine.com/video/visualize-your-heartbeat-with-this-homemade-pulse-sensor/ (This link does not work) This project I am extremely interested about. A pulse monitor is a project that will not be too time consuming, but will require hard work to complete. the cost of this project will not be too expensive as we would as arduino processor, which is not too expensive. I believe this project can help me learn about arduino more and could be an nice experience for me with sautering and programming.
My second vote is for the hear beat monitor because of the skills it builds and the low cost of the project. The instructions seem to be fairly straightforward and also includes the arduino code. One question I have is if we can write the code ourselves or if it is at all possible to improve the code that is given. I don’t know if that is possible but just something i was hoping someone could clarify.
I think this would be a great project. It seems to be fairly simple yet it has components which would allow us to learn about several different concepts. Also the parts seem to be cheap which is perfect for a class project.
I think that this project is very popular with the class. It’s a great way to apply what we are learning. It covers a lot of things that we may see in the future. We do not have a lot of time but this project looks very possible. The design is already provided and it shouldn’t be too expensive to build. Given that only a few people in the class have some kind of previous experience or knowledge about electronics, it should not be too complicated for the others. The project is very interesting and can have various uses.
I actually have a heart rate monitor that is made for road/mountain biking and comes in the form of a strap that goes around the chest. The hardest thing to do is actually pick up a signal from the pulse; sometimes mine even has trouble with this and its the same strap used in the pro peloton. Other than that I don’t think there is a whole lot of issues that would really take a lot of time to sort out. The timer would be relatively easy to program, once there is actually something to measure. Another decision to make is if the heart rate to be measured would be over a single rep or a specific amount of time. Very cool project though.
– DIY vacuum cleaner robot which roams around and vacs up everything in its path
This project looks a bit expensive ($60 with surplus parts, probably over $100 with new parts) and may require more shop tools than we have access to.
– Automated DIY plantduino greenhouse with automated watering and temperature system
Only simple control of a plant watering system is actually included in this instructable, though temperature and light measurement are mentioned at the end (control of light and temperature is also mentioned, but with no discussion of how they are to be controlled—adding heat and light is fairly easy, but removing them is not). A plant watering, heating, or lighting system is a doable project, though we can’t work with plumbing in the electronics lab.
The mechanical construction in this design relied on building outside on the ground—we don’t have a protected space for such work, so the design would have to be modified to be portable.
Here is my list of potential projects:
– DIY design for an incubator using an arduino
Doable, and I have the styrofoam boxes needed to build this. I’d recommend using a power resistor and a low-voltage, high-current power supply instead of a light bulb. Not only is it safer, but a lot of cultures are sensitive to light. Adding a small fan would help keep the temperatures more uniform throughout the box. See the 10 posts I wrote on incubators as a possible project for the course (though WordPress insists on putting them in the order most-recent-first, which is backwards from the order they should be read in).
-DIY ultrasonic range finder similar to the ones marketed by parallax
This one is kind of cool. I’ve used Ping))) and Maxbotix range finders, but not considered building my own. The $1.25 transducers and a few bucks of analog parts would be enough (together with a microcontroller board). Finding a data sheet for the Matsushita #0D24K2 transducer might be a bit tough, but several hobbyists have used them, so there may be enough data available (24.5kHz±0.5kHz, an unusual frequency for ultrasonic transducers). But w can get the more common 40kHz TCT40-16R/T transducers for $1.25 a pair (or unsolder them from the 68¢ module, though that will leave tails too short for breadboarding).
This DIY ultrasonic range finder, https://sites.google.com/site/wayneholder/ultrasonic-rangefinder, looks like a lot of good circuit building. I think this Range Finder should be designed to start running a second circuit that does something like flash an LED or play a song when someone is close to it.
I think this project would be perfectly doable. It also ties into the science lab equipment on a budget theme. It also can be put to many other applications once built. Perhaps a project extension could be designing this for a specific application, such as a car detection system?
https://sites.google.com/site/wayneholder/ultrasonic-rangefinder I would vote for this project just because of the perceived simplicity of it. The programming does not seem too intensive but I would like some help in finding out what the arduino coding actually means. Another advantage, besides the simplicity, would be that we could use it for another project if time was left at the end of the quarter.
List of possible projects:
-DIY pulse monitor, we can detect heart beats and be able to see it.
Optical pulse monitors are a doable project for this course—several students did them last year, and they are a one-week lab in the Applied Electronics course.
-Make your own activity tracker using an Arduino
This looks doable (other than making a case), and involves only programming and wiring, no electronics design.
-Make your own smart watch
This one seems to be mainly programming and a 3D-printed case also.
-DIY Livescribe, it’s still in progress but being able to create one for much cheaper would be really cool
A bit more challenging than the other projects, since converting accelerometer or accelerometer+gyroscope data into position data is not trivial. Probably beyond the scope of a 2-unit course.
This project does seem difficult. I think this would be a good attempt to actually create something instead of taking plans since this project isn’t exactly fleshed out. It would take a lot of thinking and design to get it to function properly. I’d like to attempt this one too.
Capacitance-Touch Arduino Keyboard
We can definitely do the capacitive touch sensing with the Teensy boards, as the chips are designed to have low-power capacitive touch sensor interfaces. The Teensy boards also have real digital-to-analog conversion, so we can do better sound synthesis than just a square-wave buzzer (perhaps the Karplus-Strong plucked-string algorithm).
I think that this is a very possible project for the class. It looks fairly simple and wouldn’t require much spending. Given that we are on our 4th week and have not finished our first project, this one looks fairly simple to do. The materials are easy to find and seems to cover most of what we want to learn. Since the teensy boards are compatible with Arduino, that should’t be much of a problem. The instructables also already come with the code which may or not be a good thing depending on the situation, that is, it’s good to have it because of the time span but we may not necessarily learn how the code works unless we write it letter by letter. Other than that, it should be fun and doable for this class.
3D Touchless Tracking Interface
Another application of capacitive sensing—again this looks quite doable.
This seems like it’s a very interesting project to be working on, it seems likes it’s a cheap design and it can be very easily doable. I do have some question on what it’s applications would be but other than that I think it could be a very interesting project to try to do.
9 DIY Basic Hardware Projects
This project seems to have all of the circuits and for the home security given which would lessen the originality of the project. Other than that the project is achievable. The project doesn’t seem to require much extra equipment which would be better than some of the other projects.
Water Level Detector
Very simple conductivity-based water sensor with logic gate to do OR.
Project Idea: Automated Greenhouse System (some of the parts, not all, will be automated)
Conductivity Probe(detects nutrients in soil)
The electronics and microcontroller program for a conductivity probe is a reasonable project for the class, but some thought would need to be given to the mechanical design of the probe itself. This project is similar to, but slightly more ambitious than, the electrode lab in the Applied Electronics course. The amount of water involved may be small enough that we could do the work (in secondary containment tubs) in the electronics lab.
LED Artificial Light Supply to Grow Plants
Although this particular instantiation is not very exciting, designing grow lights is a reasonable project.
This one is a little intensive but it comes in a kit “DIY Robot Arm”
A wooden version of the MeArm robot arm shown in the lifehacker post is available new for $40 on ebay, including 4 servo motors. Building a kit is fun, and programming the arm would be educational, but the design would be limited to software, as the hardware has already been designed.
Intelligent lighting system for aquarium/terrarium
Controlling RGB lighting strips is a reasonable task, through we’d have to add a voltage regulator, since the Teensy boards run off 3.7V–5.5V, not up to 12V where the LED strips are designed to operate. That makes the task just difficult enough to be interesting.
A more feasible project that caught my attention, http://m.instructables.com/id/Intelligent-Lighting-System-for-TerrariumsAquarium/ This would be much more simple but I would like to use this in a fish tank at home to experiment with plant Vs. algae growth.
This seems like a very interesting project to take on. It seems like there are many components related to it and it would be quite interesting to see the different design that would come from this since there aren’t any provided in the guide. It could be used in many of schools and it seems simple and cheap enough to do.
Simple automatic humidifier
The part this is based on (from Seeedstudio) is no longer available, but water atomizers are available from eBay for $7–$10, and hooking it up to a microcontroller and adding a humidity sensor would make this a reasonable project.
Digital thermometer (the title on the page is wrong)
A digital thermometer is the first assignment in the Applied Electronics class, so perhaps a bit too simple for this course. But using it to make a digital thermostat (that is, adding control of a heater) would make it sufficiently challenging.
http://www.vernier.com/experiments/epv/1/build_a_temperature_sensor/ I am very interested in this project. Although it seems a little simple, I believe it will be an exciting project especially with someone like who has had some experience with processors and programming. I have read some of the projects that the other classmates have posted and they seem a little too complicated and time consuming. I strongly believe this project will be great and fun. I have done some research and this project would not be too expensive, but would require hard work and commitment in order to be successful.
A decent construction and programming project, without much electronics design.
B—— also mentioned his interest in this project and I also have interest in this project. Since we are learning about LEDs, it could be a good idea to demonstrate to Kevin what we have learned in the quarter by involving LEDs in our final project. This project illuminates the three different colors in a RBG LED. We can adjust this project by making a LED cube to make the project a little more difficult. Again, I think this will still be a good final project.
(I’ve counted this as a comment on the RGB LED cube, though it is apparently an attempt to introduce a new project to the list.)
A digital thermometer is the first assignment in the Applied Electronics class, so perhaps a bit too simple for this course. But using it to make a digital thermostat (that is, adding control of a heater) would make it sufficiently challenging. The packaging in a plastic container as a case is a handy trick.
Other than hooking up the display, this is purely a software project.
The word clock
Looks ok, but there would be a lot of soldering to do if we don’t have a PC board for it. Also, the crystal oscillators on Teensy or Arduino boards are not really great for high-accuracy clocks—good enough for short runs of a few hours, but not good for keeping time for weeks at a time.
Looks doable, though perhaps a bit tricky to get everything working with the level of skills in the class.
Very late submissions (more than 36 hours):
Speaker Volume Controller
OK, but a little bit special-purpose for the guy who made it.
Water level detector
Water tank level detectors are a fairly simple standard project. It would be more interesting if the design contained a solenoid valve to turn the water on and off, rather than just sending a text message.
This project seems to be about mounting a fan on a servo motor, so that it can be aimed.
A photogate is a useful device in physics labs, but most of the design work is mechanical.
Ultrasonic Distance Sensor (on arduino)
Hooking up an existing ultrasonic module is pretty easy—I’d want to see either an application (using the measured distance to control something) or designing the module from the bare transducers (see above).
Submissions more than a week late:
Hey I saw another cool project on facebook. What do you think of building a camera system/computer program that tells you the shortest moves to solve a rubix cube?