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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Day 29

Wednesday had the same daily deliverables as the previous days of the week. I arrived to see one thousand feet of UTP Cat 5 outdoor cable sitting on the table, knowing that I will be the sole person working with it. Yay, gifts for me. Accompanying the Cat5 were an abundance of waterproof temperature sensors. We resorted to purchasing them because it will be better in the long run, despite all of our attempts at waterproofing. At least we tried. We had to know that ones we built weren't going to be more efficient than ones we bought.

I spent most of the day messing around with the website we are building. Much excitement about that. It's taking longer than expected, but no worries. It's going to have a cool video on us that I made, a link to our blog, some bios on the team, and information on what we're doing, as well as contact information. There will be a place where you can set up emails to send,which come directly to me so send me an email to say hi. We are hoping to include the final draft of our written report on there for you all to see too. A full write up of how we created SUSAN will eventually be included as well, once it's actually written. We bought our domain name from Go Daddy and are using they're hosting and website building templates as well. Seems to be fine. It cost $72 for a year. We are starting to feel official.

At 11am, we had a meeting with Kaley Krick. She is a representative for Ignite LU, which is an outreach program to alumni for funds to help projects such as ours. She explained to us that some groups have received $0.00 and some are up to $17,000. It all depends on how much effort you put into it, and that no money is guaranteed. She suggested we reach out to family and friends first for donations, to help build us a foundation. Once we establish a donation account, we will be accepting all donations from generous people such as our blog followers. Funds will go to products pertinent to our project, such as a pickup truck, pieces of SUSAN's technology, Solar Panels, tarps for our compost pile, a wheelbarrow, and such the like. More donation information will be available once the site is running, and once we get accepted by Ignite LU. They do not accept all projects, and are very exclusive about which ones they do pick. They want projects that will have a positive influence on the Lehigh Community, which she expressed that our's would have. All we can do is fill out the application and wait. So, more info to  come on this matter.

I spent the rest of the day proof-reading the Final Draft of our report. Have to make sure it's as professional as possible so we are taken seriously. Nothing says treat us like children more than a grammatically incorrect paper. No comma will be spared.

Today is a day of SUSAN. I will be soldering away like a slave all day. They are airing the USA vs. Germany World Cup game today at the Mountaintop @ noon. How lucky are we. GO America. Ben will be working on the online application for Ignite LU, and Alec is driving Tori to the doctor because she got something stuck in her eye. Becca will be acting as a guest visitor and secretary today. woop.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Day 26-28

Friday turned into a bust, and we ended up getting no work done. But, since this is a fellowship, we are learning things. We are learning that some days, you just can't get anything done, and you need to take a break. So that's what we did.

Monday we go our act together a bit . We had four daily deliverables; Written Report with Cost, Susan version 1.0 talking to Xively, Define Project Deliverables, and Order things.

The Project Deliverables included SUSAN -- with full documentation, a Written Report including interested parties, costs, options, and suggestion models. We had to estimate every cost we thought we would need, and then we have to email it to Delicia to get it looked at and approved, and Next Steps, which have yet to be determined, but will include everything for the Fall Semester.

We left SUSAN running overnight Monday into Tuesday, connected to Xively, and she worked. She stayed connected to the internet sending data. Our soil moisture sensors were in cups of dirt, and our temperature sensor was out. We connected two soil moisture probes, and three temperature sensors, but only got readings from two of the temperature sensors and both soil ones.

The written report is looking good, it's approximately 20 pages long, even has a table of contents. boom. It includes every possible aspect of a business plan for the composting site, short term and long.

We had a phone interview yesterday, our second one, with a guy named Nate who works for a scientific magazine. He's super interested in our project, which is awesome. We also had someone come in and film us. Not exactly sure about what, but she filmed us doing things like writing on our board and everyday stuff.  We are receiving some pretty positive publicity, which might help us in our final case.

My job today is to blog (hi) and get us a website started that isn't through blogger, ie. go daddy or one
Web Hosting. Not sure exactly what I'm going to do yet, but Alec has a few things in mind for me to do.

The rest of the group went down to Rathbone Dining Hall to pick up some food waste so we can increase our volume. I'm assuming we will be doing more composting today, as well as working on printing a 3D model body for SUSAN, and finalizing our working draft report.

Lots of work to do, and we are done for the summer on next Thursday, so lots of planning is needed still.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 25

Wednesday was a good day. All morning we worked on the institutional model I explained yesterday. Organizing and preparing, we needed to get ready to play in the big leagues and have people take us seriously. I sent a whole bunch of e-mails, to step our game up and get some support from professors. We all picked topics and worked through to the afternoon. Our project advisor Mark Orrs came by around noon with pizza for all of the groups he oversees. We got to chat with them and hear about their projects. After lunch we split up, Alec and I to Rathbone and Tori and Ben to the garden. At Rathbone, we didn't find Joe or Kristin who we were looking for, but we did find food waste. We are supposed to be taking food waste from there and incorporating it into our pile. Unfortunately, the food waste that was there had too much plastic in it for us to take. Screening out plastics would be one of the hardest things we had to do, and weren't ready to tackle that.

Not sure what the plastic was from, but filtering it out is a necessity or we won't be able to use any of the food waste. At the garden, Ben and Tori were setting up the generator to power the hose so we could soak our pile, but they hadn't quite figured it out by the time we got there. I got it started no problem and we were watering away. After Alec forgot the food waste we did have at Mountain Top and running back for it, we got to turning the pile. It. was. HOT. Sweating and turning and bugs and hoses, it was summer in a garden alright. We tried to finish as quickly as possible, and at 10:20am the next day blogging, I can still smell the dirt and decaying food waste. 

Today, Thursday June 19th, IS ALEC'S BIRTHDAY!! happy birthday ring leader. You always keep me motivated. Thursday is also a SUSAN day. So we get to play with robots and eat cupcakes all day YAY. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Days 22-24

We didn't work on Friday seeing as Alec was home in Wisconsin for the weekend. Then we worked for about an hour on Monday because Alec missed his flight back because he was eating BBQ ribs and got carried away. Oh Alec. Tuesday was an institutional day. We worked with flow charts and a ton of write ups. Trying to come up with every possibility for every aspect of this project in order to have a solid presentation to Lehigh. Our topics are Location, Staffing, Methods, Feed Stock, Regulations, Use of Compost, and Research Possibilities for PhDs. Location has three possibilities, indoors, by the community garden now, or at another site off by the highway. Methods are in-vessel, out-of-vessel, or out-of-vessel static aerated pile. Feed Stock is made up of our multi-phase plan to start small and steady, and slowly add more and more places on campus until we are 100% green. Staffing could be fully staffed, fully student run, or ran by a 3rd party contracted source. Research opportunities is basically a list of professors and doctors that would possibly want to support our project and conduct research if it was fully functioning. Regulations I don't even want to touch. There's permit-by-rule, which means we don't need an actual permit as long as we follow all of the rules while we're composting. There's general permits to even have the facility, and permits for composting off campus food, as well as environmental protection permits. No thanks. Lots of e-mailing was involved for Tuesday. We didn't even have time to compost.

So that leads us to today, still writing our little institutional model. We will be composting later. Mark Orrs is bringing in free pizza for all of his groups. Wahoo! We are hoping to have a prototype of SUSAN by friday. Like a fully functioning SUSAN. With a 3D printed body, and all of her probes plugged into one Arduino and working. We'll see how that goes seeing as Ben won't be here on Friday. Weird to think that we have two and a half weeks left.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Day 21

Wednesday was a SUSAN day. SUSAN days are my favorite. Before I get into what we did, I'm going to give you a summary of SUSAN that Alec wrote up: 

We’ve talked a bit about her, but I think SUSAN really deserves a formal introduction. SUSAN stands for Sensors Using Sustainability Arduino Network, and is our robot that will help us keep track of our compost system.
                SUSAN came about through two slightly separate thought processes. First, we realized that because of our group’s academic interests, we are placed in a unique position. We are a composting project, of course, but half of our team is studying computers in one capacity or another, and the other half is at least slightly familiar with the basics. In those first few days of the project, while holed up in our affectionately termed “glass box”, we decided it made the most sense to put the things we’ve learned to use in this project. So, in that way, we were looking for technical solutions to either “food waste processing” as a whole, or any part of it that could be improved.
                The next part of SUSAN’s origin lies in my favorite creativity technique, called painstorming. There’s a lot of ways to do it, but in a nutshell, you look at a system or a process or a product and say, “what sucks about ____”. In a proper painstorming session, one would watch or take video of people performing tasks without their knowledge. The idea is that you are recognizing pains that most people wouldn’t self-identify. A classic example is the automatic trunk opener on a car. One would only have to watch a mother loading her three children into her van after soccer practice to realize that opening the trunk while managing her children and gear is a huge pain. Were you to ask that mother what the biggest issue with loading her kids into the van is, she would be more likely to identify her kids yelling or the fact that they have too much stuff, and not the trunk.  For SUSAN, it was much easier to recognize our pains. While learning all about the science of composting, we identified a short list of data and measurements that would indicate the health of our pile. Logically, then, we looked into ways to measure this in real-time. There were are few commercial systems out there that did some or most of what we wanted, but we would have wiped out our budget even buying one part of them. So, we decided to build our own.
                The construction of SUSAN follows a few guidelines. First, we want everything to be completely open source, both because we want others to be able to easily recreate what we have done, and because if we ever get stuck or something goes wrong, it will be easy to fix. Next, we want her to be self-contained and automatic, because it doesn’t make sense to only know the health of the pile when you are near the pile, especially because that is such a hassle on Lehigh’s elevationally segregated campus. To achieve this, SUSAN will be entirely powered by solar panels and will automatically send data over GPRS to Xively, our data aggregating website (assuming they learn to play nicely, that is). We want SUSAN to be modular:  we want to be able to swap out components, easily upgrade her, and make her expandable. This will also help with maintenance. Should our GRPS board fry, for example, we can replace that one component without tearing the entire system apart. Lastly, we want her to be pretty. If you have the opportunity to create something, it might was well be visually interesting. We’re not quite sure what she will look like yet, but we have noticed that a scarecrow might help keep some of the birds away from our compost…

Wednesday we did a few key things. I soldered together a temperature sensor on regular 6 foot hookup wire but added a 1-microfarad capacitor in series with a 100 ohm resistor connected to both the ground and v-out wires. This should help get rid of "noise" in the wire, or things that make readings not precise. The difference in precision and accuracy is that accuracy is close to the answer, but not close to the other answers, and precision is that all your answers are close together, regardless of how close they are to the correct answer. With some of our temperature sensors, we were getting accurate answers but not precise. Meaning we would get all sorts of values ranging between 23 and 27 for example when reading the temperature in a room. We want the most precise answers we can get, and hopefully the most accurate. But precision is what counts. Making sure all the noise is gone, and we are getting consistent results. Today I will be working on some code algorithms to try and get the best readings using an average of about 20 readings, every half second. I'm trying to see how many readings we should take and average in that half second to get accurate and precise results, as well as have the best use of power. I need to find a happy medium in efficiency and power savings. 

Ben got two sensors talking to Xively at once, which has been an enormous battle. Such smart. So computers. Much work. This means we can have two sensors running and sending data at once. His next goal is to get Xively to communicate with our e-mails and cellphones, sending us alerts about the data. 

Alec is working on soil moisture temperatures. He successfully got long-distance sensors to precisely and accurately read with up to 25 feet of cable. Today he will be doing more soil moisture sensors. Not too sure what, but he'll find something. Maybe he can help Tori.

Tori has been working on getting Solid Works on her computer, and probably will be through the rest of the week. It's used to make models on the computer to upload to 3-D printers. 3-D printers are absolute genius. She is designing a prototype model for what we want the physical body of SUSAN to be. It might end up being something like a scarecrow, but who knows... 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Day 20

Tuesday began at 9am in the misty, muggy, buggy, wet community garden. We were meeting a reporter and a photographer to get interviewed and photographed. We're hoping to gain some publicity which will hopefully add to our credibility. The two of them stood, photographed, took notes, asked questions, and genuinely seemed impressed while the four of us uncovered, turned, measured, added to, and covered our pile, seemingly unfazed by the local rodents. We were questioned about the grants we received (which add up to $17,100 total), about the science of our pile, and where we hoped to see it in the future. Relatively harmless, and quickly we wrapped it up as we finished turning our pile. Said goodbyes and see ya soons, and we went back to Mountain Top.

The amount of work we got done was relatively negligible, but I scheduled us what became one of our most important meetings we've had thus far. At 1:30pm we were due to talk to Kristin from Sodexo who is the Director of Dining Services and alternately the Sustainability Coordinator. She was so enthused to meet us. Our hour meeting flew by, and it was full of brainstorming ideas to help make Lehigh's campus better. The meeting actually inspired me to want to change part of my major so I would be Computer Science Engineering and Sustainability. With our hopes and our heads up, we left Brodhead for a quick debriefing, and called it a day.

Wednesday is Burrito Day. Get ready.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Days 18 and 19

Friday we worked on SUSAN a bunch more, following the same general path we did on Thursday. Once the day came to an end, we outline everything we've worked on with SUSAN thus far. It started with every temperature sensor we created. It ranged from the first prototypes we made in PVC pipe and electrical tape, to the most recent 6 foot shielded vs. unshielded wires. After writing out every temperature sensor we've made and analyzing them, a shielded wire with a 10k resistor seems to be our next best bet. We also want to try and incorporate capacitors as well as op-amps to try and better our output. A lack of voltage couple potentially give us skewed results. We are going to try and bring more power on Wednesday when we work on SUSAN again. We wrote out all of the moisture sensors we created and tested (which wasn't that many) and tried to see the best way to continue ahead. We need to do more exploring with those.

Next we planned out the next week, our fifth week of work, and made a list of people we needed to contact. Heading into Monday morning, we had THREE meetings we had to attend. Our first meeting was supposed to be at 11:30am but got pushed back to noon with a reporter for the school website. We had met her once before on the second week of our project, and were happy to talk to her again. She will be at our photo shoot tomorrow that we are having at the garden tomorrow. It's gonna be a blast.

We broke for lunch at 1 after our meeting, and then had a meeting with one of our (sort of) advisors, Delicia. Delicia is the sustainability representative for Lehigh University, so she's pretty official. She's going to help us get our act together and look like adults when we present our project to the head honchos. We presented her with two of our proposed business outlines for who would collect, transport, add, turn, and manage our food waste and compost pile. She gave us helpful insight, and at 2:55 we realized we were late with out next meeting with our actual advisor, Mark Orrs. Low and behold, Mark was an hour late for our meeting (which was supposed to be at 3). So no harm no foul.

After chatting with Mark a bit about the general idea of our project, we headed down to compost. We ran into a friend of mine, Emily Gibbs, who is making her own compost pile for the garden with some other members. We found some sprouts coming out of our pile, and I'm not honestly sure what that means, but it can't be a bad thing. Some of the paper plates that were in there are finally starting to break down. The forks and knives, not so much. They really need to be put through a pulper to properly break down. Our pile is looking moist and isn't incredibly smelly, so we are looking pretty good so far. It's supposed to rain tomorrow, hopefully we can get some moisture up in there and keep it wet so we don't have to set up the generator and water it ourselves.

Tuesday is photo shoot, lots of composting, maybe a drive to Target. All good things to come.