During the Make-o-Rama last Friday, the Trailer Automation team showed off our work to parents, teachers and other students. We set up three computers – one showing our compiled code on Codeshare.com, one with our half-completed Instructable (missing only pictures), and one with the missing images constantly rotating in a slideshow. We also had our sensors, breadboard, and Arduino Uno board displayed on a little platform that Chloe constructed, with cardboard partition to isolate the motion sensor. Whenever there wasn’t too much noise and motion around our table, we could demonstrate our sensors for wide-eyed little sixth graders, using simple motions. For example, they clapped their hands near the sound sensor, causing the blue LED to turn on and the Serial Monitor to flash a different value.
In fact, our biggest (little) fan was a sixth grader, who was very impressed with our project and kept repeating nice things like “Wow!” and “You guys did all that?” It was gratifying that at least one person thought we were amazing. Most people were impressed and interested, but their eyes glazed over as they listened to details like testing sensors or compiling code. We tried to stick to explaining overarching ideas, such as the theoretical app for Ms. Jo’s iPhone or specific incidents like fires or break-ins that our sensors would monitor. Overall, our presentation at the Make-o-Rama was a success!
As far as our final product goes, we were unable to complete our trailer automation system in its entirety, which is why we made an Instructable so that next year another group can make more progress than us. When we first started this project we used this Instructable, but we quickly realized that the Instructable wasn’t as detailed and simple as we originally thought and its author not as reliable. The purpose of our Instructable was to create a straightforward, step-by-step tutorial that someone without a computer science degree could complete. It’s our hope that next year a new group of students can use our tutorial to complete the work we did at a faster pace and then have time to install the entire trailer automation system. All of the sensors and Arduino parts that were purchased by the school will be returned to the MakerSpace for next year’s makers.
If another group does decide to continue our project next year, we would like to tell them to make sure they have some knowledge in computer science and digital electronics before starting this project. We would recommend completing a simpler, more basic project before tackling this trailer automation system, as it is a comprehensive, complex, and complicated project. Also, we would like to advise any future group to not be afraid to ask for help, since there are always people eager to help you learn.
This project was riddled with challenges and obstacles. We began not really understanding the full depth of the project and what we were getting ourselves into. At first we thought the project would be fairly simple: copy some code, make some circuits based on the diagrams, copy code into the app software, and done.
However, this was not the case. We had to find the code on our own and write a lot of it ourselves. We had to make the circuits on our own as well. The app proved to be beyond difficult, and we could only write the steps on how to theoretically make it work which was still hard. All of these things proved to be much more extensive than we thought. The biggest challenge was how in depth our project was and how much we underestimated it. We thought our limited electrical engineering and computer science knowledge would be enough to create a fully functioning system, but it was not. We had to learn many new skills, do a lot of research and limit what our final project plans were – but this also made our project a lot of fun. The challenges were hard, but there is nothing better than overcoming a challenge; the satisfaction of understanding difficult concepts and getting sensors to finally work is unparalleled.
If we had to go back and do this over again, we would have been less ambitious from the start. That way, we wouldn’t have lost time reevaluating what our end goal was. Our knowledge was limited to begin with, so we should have taken more time to really understand the concepts before we started rather than trying to figure it out as we went along. We also should have contacted experts and tried to get help earlier than we did. Towards the end of the project, we asked a teacher to help us out, but at that point it was too late and we had done all we could. With the information we had we did the best that we could.
Our actual product was different than what we imagined. We thought we could create a fully functioning app and sensors, but hile the sensors worked for the most part, we never got around to actually creating the app. We figured out how to theoretically create the app, but never succeeded in making a completely operational system. We are proud of what we did accomplish because it was so much harder than we thought it would be and we learned a lot. We overcame all of the problems that we faced and modified as we saw fit. Our final project was impressive and we all worked hard on it. We were always on task, always problem-solving, and always being makers. This is why we deserve a 100 on our project. Despite the challenges we faced and things that didn’t fully get finished, we definitely gave 100% effort and accomplished something pretty amazing in a short amount of time with teamwork, a lot of innovation, and self-confidence.