Projects 2013-2014

(UNT RET Site: NSF Grant #1132585)
RET Site on Sensor Networks

Below for each project we include links for a blog, report, poster, presentation, lesson plan, and techfest activity

Here is a summary poster for all projects Summary summer projects poster

Aquatic Sensors: Sensor Networks to monitor water quality in an artificial stream Aquatic Sensor Setup
Group Members:
  • Zac Bunn, Lead teacher, Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD
  • Michael McEver, Lewisville ISD
  • Deliah Seastrunk, Denton ISD
  • Dawn Chegwidden, Master teacher, Lewisville ISD
  • Dr. Shengli Fu, Faculty Mentor
  • Dr. David Hoeinghaus, Faculty Mentor
  • Yixin Gu, graduate student, EE

This team developed a stream monitoring system with wireless sensor networks. The teachers gained experience on the development and operation of water quality sensors, which was developed in last summer project. Three water quality parameters, including pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature, are measured and transmitted to base station through wireless sensor networks (XBee and Arduino). The teachers also gain basic understanding on the automatic control of water quality conditions.

In this summer project, we extend the single sensor node to multiple nodes for a real wireless sensor networks with larger coverage. Multi-hop communication and protocols will be introduced through the development of multiple nodes system. In this project, we will also implement a real-time video monitoring system to enable remote control and access of the water monitoring system in the field, especially the actual transmission of images from cameras. Another part of the project is to design a simple control system to maintain the dissolved oxygen level in the lowest container of the table-top aquatic ecosystem prototype. This is done through automatically turning on and off fresh water flowing into the upstream container, based upon the dissolved oxygen sensor readings.

Aquaponics control systems Aquaponics
Group Members:
  • Jose Guerrero, Lead teacher, Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD
  • Fern Edwards, Frisco ISD
  • Sharon Wood, Master teacher, Lewisville ISD
  • Dr. Yan Wan, Faculty Mentor
  • Vardham Sheth, graduate student, EE

Aquaponic systems involve intricate biological and chemical processes to breakdown fish waste, generate nutrition for plants, and produce clean water to fish. Maintaining the healthy condition of system water is critical for the functioning of the aquaponic system. Important health indicators of an aquaponic system include: temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and those related to the nitrification process, such as ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. In this project, teachers will build a simple automatic control of aquaponic ecosystem. In particular, the system will perform the following functions: Maintain constant water level through a water-level triggered circuit to open/close the water inlet, Maintain temperature through a heater system, based upon temperature readings, Control dissolved oxygen level using a dissolved oxygen sensor and an air pump, Control pH-level through pumping out waste water out of the system, A timer-controlled motor to drop fish food, Timer-triggered pump to water the plant. The teachers will learn through this project the fundamentals of automatic control, the functioning of an aquaponic system, programming microcontrollers, and the design of simple control circuits.

Robotics Robotics
Group Members:
  • Jesse Bell, Lead teacher, Dallas ISD
  • Elizabeth Freeman, Frisco ISD
  • Sharon Wood, Master teacher, Lewisville ISD
  • Dr. Kamesh Namuduri, UNT (Faculty Mentor)
  • Omar Costilla, graduate student, EE

We want to create an autonomous multi-agent system with Lego NXT robots. Each robot is going to be controlled by identical agent-based software. The robots need to be programmed to navigate and communicate with one another effectively. The project consists of the following tasks: Robot programming: In order to control the NXTs, we need to do some programming on a computer, compile the source code and then move the compiled code to the NXT brick. This program will allow the robot to navigate. Navigation: The robots must be able to navigate in the given area. The robot needs to know its absolute or at least relative position. This means that the world, in which they are to act, must be simple enough for the robots to resolve their position. Communication: The robots must be able to communicate with each other in order to accomplish a common goal. This is achieved using Bluetooth communication.

The project consists on creating a circular path on the ground (i.e. using insulating tape). One robot needs to be programmed to follow the line autonomously. This requires reading data coming from the light sensor and then use it for controlling the motors of the robots to follow the line autonomously. After the autonomous task is completed, a copy of the map created by the first robot will be shared with the second robot. The second robot will not use the light sensor to follow the line; instead it will be given instructions from the first robot to follow the same trajectory using the Bluetooth communication channel. Thus, the two robots will be following the path at the same time. Finally, different shapes of path will be tested on the robots (example, a square path).

Rocket Finding Rockets
Group Members:
  • Karl Gscheidle, Lead teacher, CFB ISD
  • Debra Hardy, Krum ISD
  • Gregory Kulle, Lewisville ISD
  • Michael Bih, intern student, EE
  • Sharon Wood, Master teacher, Lewisville ISD
  • Dr. Miguel Acevedo, UNT (Faculty Mentor)
  • Naveen Kollipara, graduate student, EE

The goal of this RET summer project is to develop a rocket recovery system with sensor networks and wireless communication. The teachers will gain experience on the development and operation of GPS, cell phone applications, and programming the Arduino. This idea stems from a real problem that exists with one of the curriculum taught at HS. They launch high power rockets in May. There are two different goals. The goal of one type of rocket (which weighs between 8 and 15 pounds depending on how the students design their rocket) is to fly to exactly 5280 ft. above the ground. The other rocket is between 5 and 10 pounds and is designed to go supersonic and stay below 13,000 ft. With either of these types of rocket, depending on how the rocket flies, how the recovery sequencing occurs and the winds at altitude, the rocket can easily be lost. There are human trackers positioned on hilltops in the area to aide visually in recovery, but they only can give a general idea of where the rocket lands. The desire is to make sure to never lose a rocket.

Thus, we would like an electronic system of some sort added to the rocket. Of course, it must be small, light, easy to use and work on. This system would ideally give off a signal that could be received up to 0.5 mile away. Coordinates of the rocket will be measured by a GPS receiver and transmitted to base station as a text message (SMS) through GSM cell phone. Both components GPS and GSM will be part of a shield for Arduino. The Arduino and shield will be placed and strapped on the rocket before launching and should withstand the launch and flight vibration as well as the impact of the crash. Software will be developed in Arduino to read coordinates from GPS, pass them to GSM and send text message to base cell phone line. Ideally the system will text coordinates at all times during the flight. In case the system fails upon impact of the crash, the last coordinates transmitted will help locate the rocket.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) IAQ
Group Members:
  • Georgette Jordan, Lead teacher, Dallas ISD
  • David Parsons, Lewisville ISD
  • Dawn Cheggwidden, Master teacher, Lewisville ISD
  • Dr. Xinrong Li, Faculty mentor
  • Dr. Ruthanne Thompson, Faculty mentor
  • Sherin Abraham, graduate student, EE

IAQ is an important factor affecting public health. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Science Advisory Board consistently rank indoor air pollution among the top five environmental public health risks. Average person spends an estimated 90% of their time indoors so that poor indoor air quality is a substantial risk to public health. For example, poor indoor air quality may cause increased short-term health problems such as fatigue and nausea as well as long-term health problems such as chronic respiratory diseases, heart disease, and lung cancer. It is even more alarming when we consider air quality conditions in schools and classrooms and its implications to the health as well as learning achievements of the young generation. Students are particularly at risk for health problems such as asthma and allergies linked to indoor air pollutants commonly found in schools. According to the US General Accounting Office, 20% of all US schools currently report indoor air quality problems.

In this project, teachers learn to build a small IAQ control system using Arduino microcontroller board and micro gas sensors (CO2, O3, etc.). The microcontroller system will continuously monitor IAQ. Based on a set of pre-configured trigger conditions, the system will send control signals to HAVC system. In this implementation of a small demo system, HAVC system will be simulated using a desk fan. Air quality (or the amount of air contaminants) in the conditioned space will be controlled by properly adjusting ventilation rate. From this project, teachers will gain hands-on engineering experience in building small electronic system and programming microcontrollers. Teachers will also be able to acquire a good understanding of IAQ-related issues, government regulations and policies, and best practices.

The objectives of this project are: 1) Research IAQ state-of-art monitoring technologies, government regulations and policies, the best practices to improve IAQ, and the best practices to minimize the adverse impact of poor IAQ, especially in school and classroom environments with focus on both health and learning effectiveness of students. 2) Build experimental IAQ monitoring and control system with micro gas sensors and Arduino microcontroller platform. In particular, the CO2 sensor reading will drive the motor to control the speed of the fan. A simple control algorithm will be implemented to keep the CO2 consentration at a desired level. 3) Test and experiment with IAQ monitoring and control system.

Wildlife monitoring wildwatch
Group Members:
  • Lori Wolf, Lead teacher, Dallas ISD
  • Raechelle Jones, Duncanville ISD
  • Chelsea Meyer, Lewisville ISD
  • Dawn Cheggwidden, Master teacher, Lewisville ISD
  • Dr. Miguel Acevedo, Faculty mentor
  • Jennifer Williams, graduate student, EE

Through this research, we are developing an off-grid video system for collecting visual data of burrowing owl roosting behavior in the West Texas region. The project is motivated by the declining population of burrowing owls in the region and a similar project filming little owls in the UK. The final design will be installed in El Paso, Texas, where Lois Balin oversees artificial and natural burrowing owl sites. This research supports wildlife conservation efforts of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) scientists by providing archived video for better understanding the birds patterns of survival and use of artificial nest sites. The video and power equipment must be evaluated in the lab at the University of North Texas, and re-evaluated in a test site outdoors before the final setup in El Paso.

The first objective is to set up a mock system on-grid at Isle du Bois State Park as an outdoor equipment study. The next step is to take the system off-grid using solar power, and the team is challenged with developing a means for reducing system power consumption. This becomes a vital component in completing the project because the full power draw of the system would require large solar panels and battery bank (cost and space issues).

Due to the high energy demand of the infra-red cameras and the hefty hard disk drive, we must explore ways to minimize the power consumption of the video equipment. Such considerations include developing a motion-triggered System Wake-up where the video system is not powered on until there is movement in the burrow. For example, the team will need to think about establishing a threshold for detecting movement to ensure powering the system only when data-rich movement occurs. A similar functionality would be the motion-triggered light switches installed in many facilities to conserve energy.

The mock system setup, where we will place cameras in different lighting conditions. To quantify these conditions, the RET team will construct light intensity sensors. There will also be outreach activities involved with this project, such as giving a presentation at Isle du Bois and participation in the Tech Fest community events. 1. Set up one set of four cameras and recording equipment on-grid. 2.Move the system off-grid using a battery and solar panel array. 3. System Wake-up. 4. Light intensity sensors

Conceptual Design: To begin, we are curious about the image quality in different light intensity conditions and proximity to the creature being filmed. For the burrowing owls, the artificial burrows are buried in the hillside, so the cameras will be in very low light conditions. For better understanding of the cameras, we will install a camera in 3-4 different light intensity settings, above ground: a. Full light-tree mount viewing an open area to monitor general wildlife movement (i.e. deer, foxes or bobcats) b. Medium light-view inside a standard song-bird nesting box. c. Low light-view inside an above ground man-made burrow for small animals (i.e. skunks, rabbits, fox)

Because of the outdoor setting, we must enclose the recording device, battery, charge controller, and System Wake-up components in a weatherproof box above ground. After ensuring the video system works properly on-grid, we will move the system off-grid by installing a pole-mounted solar panel and battery bank.