Did you leave the light on at home? Is the coffeemaker still going? Is someone walking through the door to your house right this very second, moments away from stealing your most prized possessions?
We hope not. But just in case, Chloe, Annalise and I have set out to program and install a home automation system in our school’s Airstream trailer. Following some recent break-ins, Ms. Jo became concerned that the trailer wasn’t safe enough. So using an Instructable, Adafruit sensors, Arduino software, and an Intel Galileo board, we are programming sensors that will monitor light, sound, motion, gas, temperature and humidity in the trailer. The sensors will then feed the data to a mobile app, allowing Ms. Jo to monitor the trailer from her iPhone. Chloe, Annalise, and I were each on different DAP engineering teams in tenth grade, but we never got to actually renovate a trailer, so we saw this project as the perfect opportunity to gain some hands-on engineering experience that we missed out on two years ago.
When we first began this project I was nervous that we were in over our heads and wouldn’t be able to write the code, program the sensors, and connect them to an app in less than four months. Surprisingly, however, we seem to be ahead of schedule. We’ve taken inventory of the items we currently have and placed orders for things we still need. I interned at Intel last May, so we already have an Intel Galileo board, LED lights, wires, and some resistors, and we’re borrowing an Arduino Uno board and a breadboard from the school.
While we wait for our sensors to arrive we’ve been working on the placement of the sensors around the trailer as well as writing the code. We decided to purchase two light sensors so there can be one attached to each lamp, allowing Ms. Jo to tell if either of the lights is on. We will also have two temperature/sensors- one near the coffee maker, microwave, and A/C unit at one end of the trailer, and another near the fan at the opposite end. We’ll fasten a motion sensor to the door and a place gas sensor in the center of the trailer which will sound an alarm upon the detection of any LGP, i-butane, propane, methane, hydrogen, or smoke. Finally, we will have three sound sensors, one on each side of the trailer by the wide windows, and a third near the smaller, middle windows beside the AC unit. This would let the owner know if someone broke a trailer window or is talking or making other noise.
I’m personally in charge of the code for the photoresistor (light sensor) and the temperature/humidity sensor, and I was able to find code for both of them on the Adafruit website that only required a few modifications. I was unsure how difficult it would be for me to code the sensors having never taken a computer science class, but I tried to keep a positive attitude amidst all the error messages. In addition to trial and error, I found solutions to many of my coding problems with the help of the Adafruit Learning System, the Arduino Playground, forums like stackoverflow.com, and a book from my internship titled Getting Started with Intel Galileo (which has a Arduino code glossary at the back). The real challenge will come once we connect the sensors to the microcontroller and have to adapt the code to the trailer’s environment (so that the sound sensor detects the sound of window glass breaking, and the light sensor knows how bright the lamp is when turned on). But after proving to myself that I’m capable of coding and problem-solving, I’m confident that as long as I remain optimistic, my team and I can successfully automate the trailer.
I’m really excited about this project because I’ve always wanted to learn how to code, but every year scheduling issues have prevented me from taking computer science at school. This project is also more problem-solving and engineering-based than our fall semester project, and while I thought JetSet did an excellent job prototyping our airplane comfort device, I’m more excited about programming sensors with code than combating deep vein thrombosis. We’re only a month into this project, but I’ve already learned so much about coding, sensor nodes, open source software like Arduino, and other technologies that I never imagined I’d be familiar with before college. I’m no longer worried about our ability to complete our project and can’t wait to see what our end product will look like- I sense that it will be great!