One Small Step for Trailerkind – Annalise Irby

This week, our new Trailer Automation team turned in our second round of deliverables, including Erin and Chloe’s fully debugged code for four of our five sensors and my finalized SketchUp layouts.

For my part, I created two maps which detail the rough positions of each sensor, one floor and one ceiling view of the Airstream. I was a little rusty using SketchUp and had zero experience with Layout, its fancy auxiliary program which allowed me to label and polish the virtual drawings – but thankfully I had a lot of help from Ms. Jo, our resident SketchUp expert.

A polished visual map of sensor placement on the ceiling of the school's Airstream trailer. Notice the confusing arrows that still bother Annalise and keep her inner graphic designer up at night... Created on Google Layout by Annalise Irby.
A gorgeous, polished visual map of sensor placement on the ceiling of the school’s Airstream trailer. Notice the overlapping arrows which still bother Annalise and keep her inner graphic designer up at night… Created on Google Layout by Annalise Irby.

I’m happy to report that we are ahead of schedule – largely because when our team created the schedule, we worried too much. Basically, we estimated that writing and debugging our sensor code in Arduino would take considerably more time and effort than it actually did. We found much of the code for our five different sensors online, and tweaked it to our sensors and situation with relative ease. Personally, this was my first time coding with Arduino or any other programming language, but all I had to do was search for the appropriate code online (sifting through various forums and blogs like this gem), read through to be sure I understood it, and then press “compile” on the Arduino interface. If my code failed to compile, that would indicate it had a bug or some kind of typo – but thankfully, it compiled on the first try! Now that I’ve compiled my code, our five sensors are officially ready to test next week – as soon as the physical sensors arrive in the mail.

Color-coded floor plan of the Airstream which includes electrical appliances (in red) and individual sensors (in 50 shades of neon). Created on Google Layout by Annalise Irby.
Color-coded floor plan of the Airstream which includes electrical appliances (in red) and individual sensors (in 50 shades of neon). Created on Google Layout by Annalise Irby.

Another success on Thursday: we finally got that tiny, red LED on our Galileo board to flash, meaning our photoresistor (light sensor) worked! For the past few days, Erin and Chloe had been physically wiring the circuit for one of our sensors and testing it with the finished code, but unfortunately without success. This Thursday, once I turned in my layouts, I had the chance to join them – and after a long brainstorming session of every possible thing that could have gone wrong, we finally hit on rewiring the entire circuit using a simpler Arduino Uno board instead of the Galileo board. I wish you could watch the exciting success video we took, but sadly it was too big to upload. You’ll just have to imagine our excitement as I cover the photoresistor with my finger and the LED turns off, then uncover so it turns on… I’m so proud! Our little sensor can finally detect light correctly!

Not to imply that I’m a good luck charm…. but I’m a good luck charm. My finger is pure magic. To summarize: Layout was a lifesaver, compiling coding was simpler and faster than I anticipated, and the Trailer Automation team is proceeding at a brisk trot!

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