Projects, Grants, Papers, etc

Last updated: August-14-2015

Data Logger Project

Over the past two years I have been working on and off with an Arduino based data logger that can easily accomdate a variety of sensors and environments. This originally began life as the bat house data logger which moved into the geoscience data logger and then morphed into the bee hive data logger. This latest version adds more capacity for program code, more sensor inputs, and GSM access as well. This will eventually allow control/monitoring of the logger by SMS phone messaging and/or GPRS web site interactions.

This summer I completed two prototypes of the logger for John Halfman in Geoscience to deploy in streams in the Finger Lakes. These have sensory devices to measure water depth, water turbidity, water temperature, air temperature, and electronics enclosure operating temperature. The units are solar powered using widely available solar cells and charge controllers and the enclosures are constructed primarily of PVC electrical conduit boxes and materials found in any Lowes or other hardware stores. Cost of the loggers is fairly low due to use of common construction materials and commodity electronics and sensors.

The electronics are housed on an Arduino compatible shield fitting the widely available Arduino MEGA 2560 board. This board allows additional code space and accomodates a more generous array of sensor cable connectors. Handling I2C, One-Wire, SPI, analog, and digital inputs allows the logger to be configured by software to read and control a wide array of sensors. My expectation is to make other prototypes suitable for vineyard micro-climate and soil data logging, beehive logging, as well as environmental logging around landfills.

Below are some images of the two prototypes and deployment.

Stream Loggers, ver. 1.5.0

Stream Logger Enclosure, ver. 1.5.0

Stream Logger Board, ver. 1.5.0

Stream Logger Deployed in Dutch Hollow, ver. 1.5.0

Last updated: January-12-2013

Arduino Tutorial

Here are the slides I showed at the CCSCNE 2012 conference this year for my "Hands-on Computing with Arduino" tutorial session. Thanks to all the well-behaved (no rotten tomatoes!) and attentive audience members. A special shout out to the student who programmed his Arduino with a classic snippet from the venerable Adventure game. LOL and keep the faith!

HWS Bathouse Project Resources

An article on the bathouse project (Open-Source Hardware Development by Josh Davis, Tomas Carvalho y Silva, and John Vaughn) has appeared in Circuit Cellar, January 2013, issue 270. This contains the essentials of the project with resources.

Here are links to the various parts of the bathouse project available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike license. Professor Jim Ryan, biologist at HWS, maintains a repository of materials for this project at www.wildmammal.com/digitalbathouse.html and will provide primary support for the project. We plan to make the Arduino shield and IR PCB boards available for low cost purchase at BatchPCB.com.

Arduino shield schematic/CAD files (Eagle format): Shield PCB files
Bathouse IR sensor boards, schematics/CAD files (Eagle format): Sensor PCB files
You can see images of Shield and Sensor boards, ver. 1.2
Arduino logger code: Source code
HWS Bathouse Assembly Guide and User Guide (PDF): Assembly/User Guides

Going batty

Summer 2010, currently I am working to finish a project began by two graduating seniors in my previous microprocessor course last spring term. They worked with a student and faculty member in Biology to select a suite of sensors for monitoring the behavior of bats in a bat house. The biologists gave us the insight on how bats behave and built the bat house while we designed some IR break beam, temperature, real time clock, light sensors, etc to capture activity data. This was logged to an serial EEPROM on a custom built (read messy prototype wiring) Arduino shield. I have turned the design into a PCB shield, added an SD card, and it is now working. We will be putting out an article for publication ASAP about this open source project suitable for high school and college students. You can find an OpenOffice presentation to accompany a talk I gave at the HWS Friday faculty lunch talk about this project here.

Robotics

I am preparing to teach the CPSC 336 Robotics course in fall 2010. This time I will be adding some additional robot projects to the class. I have been prepping the Pioneer DX2 for some interesting mapping/localization and video work this time around. I will be using the Create robots once more but they are getting on in age and some parts are beginning to wear out as time goes by. The AIBO robots will be in the class as well as some projects various students in the class have suggested such as UAV control. Should be fun. There will be photos and video available on the class web page as usual. Benoit Vigne, an embedded programmer/engineer visitor from France has challenged the robotics class students to a contest against his students during the coming spring term so we plan on setting up a live video robot contest in March. Should be lots of fun!

Kids College

In July, 2010 Scotty Orr and I volunteered to teach some sessions for Kids College being held here at HWS. This is sort of summer camp for 4th-8th grades area students. The younger and older group totally about 50 children! Scotty did a very nice afternoon session on making catapult gliders (airplanes) from styrofoam plates which the kids really enjoyed. They had a great time flying their planes and were surprised how well they flew.

I made the foolish mistake of trying to do two sessions on solar energy in always cloudy Geneva during the summer. I found some really cheap solar cars which they built in groups as well as solar cookie bakers. The sun was too finicky to have their cookies fully bake in their small bakers but we brought out our parabolic solar baker we built a few years ago and showed them that it can be done. The solar cars did actually work out after a summer storm delay and we had fun with single elimination solar drag racing on the sidewalk. Solar energy projects in Geneva...require luck with the weather.

Embedded Computing

In spring of 2010 I taught a fun course in embedded computing. We worked through some basic electronics before programmign a number of microprocessors found in typical applications such as ATM machines, entertainment centers and home automation, and environmental sensors. You can find out more about the course from its own web page so I won't give details now. It was challenging and lots of fun was had by all.

I am following up a project in the embedded course which involved putting temperature, light, and IR break beam sensors in a bat house as an experiment in logging bat activity and environmental data. Two students (Josh Davis and Tomas Carvalho y Silvia) built and debugged the prototype during the term and I am now finishing the design and testing of an Arduino shield which implements that original design and adds some additional logging options. I will provide a picture and Eagle CAD schematic ASAP.

Rome 2009

I spent the spring of 2009 in Rome, Italy as co-director of the HWS Rome Term abroad. Bonnie Bennett, faculty member here at HWS in the Art Department was the other responsible adult shepherding our group in Rome and Florence. We took 28 students with us and have a very memorable time except for a few bumps when arriving. I slept two nights in Charles DeGaulle airport in France, lost all my luggage and the students has similar problems. We pulled it together anyway, retrieved our luggage (finally), and had a pretty good term overall. The students worked on individual projects, learned to deal with adversity, took language lessons, watched and made some movies, and reenacted a classic experiment to calculate the circumference of the earth on the spring solstice outside Santa Maria degli Angeli as the pinhole light beam was passing over the meridiana inside the church. We were living smack dab in al Centro, the very old center of Rome. Highly recommended. You can find photos, student movies, and other artifacts on the class page. Ciao.

Summer 2008

This year has been more focused on mathematics instead of computing as I am editing the logic book to add some more material and try and fix a few typos. Kathryn and I added some final touches to the VRC and ported it to a new server as the current one is getting a bit old and the ITS folks on campus wanted to retire it. We moved the Artifact DB to the main SQL server application, reinstalled Tomcat, and fixed a few small issues with the various pages. We are essentially at the end of Artifact development since we don't want to add more features unless requested by the users here but most people seem happy with it as is.

Robots Summer 2007

This summer I spent quite a bit of time working on programming a variety of robots including the Create from iRobot, more work on our Pioneer robot, and some nice Qwerk processors from Charmed Labs which I will be using in the Advanced Robotics course offered spring term 2008. We will also be using our Aibo robots in that course as well. I purchased a Lynxmotion robotic arm which I am in the process of assembling as well as more CMUCam2+ cameras which will be used in the course as well.

Kathryn and I added some additional features to the VRC program which is in the process of being renamed to Artifact. These features include file upload to personal catalogs by users and better navigation and moving of images in reviews and presentations.


Summer Academy

Thanks to Scotty Orr for co-teaching the first HWS Summer Academy robotics course with me. Scotty and I taught seven Geneva High School students the basics of electronics, sensors, BASIC programming, and some simple robotics mechanics in a two week summer program. The students also took classes in sociology, creative writing, and literature. All the students successfully built and programmed their SumoBot robots using only SIX class sessions! We held a Round Robin tournament in which the two best robots ended up essentially tied for first place so there was a dramatic high-stakes final at the program ending ceremony. A good time was had by all! Congratulations to Andrew, Charlotte, Daisy (first place!), Danielle, Jalisa, Josh, and Kelvin. Keep those batteries charged!

Logic Book

The manuscript of the textbook A Tour of First Order Logic is completed, minus a section or two, of course, and will be used again in the Mathematical Logic course for Fall 2005. The book is an attempt to provide a broader view of FOL without sacrificing any real sense of rigor in proofs. I plan on getting the missing sections and an appendix on set theory together ASAP and consider the book complete enough for the time being.

BYOB

I spent much of my sabbatical year 2004-2005 working on a new embedded processor board, software to support the board and starting a textbook based on this system to use in the CPSC 226 Computer Architecture course. Having outgrown Handyboard and other 68HC11 based micros in our course ambitions, I wanted to create a board that students can still build (yes, solder and such) from the ground up yet still be able to program it efficiently as a robot controller. I still like the idea of having students build their very own computer and robot base for the course. All this has to be done in 14 weeks too!

After examining the many options for single board computers (SBC) on the market I decided nothing quite fit what I want to do here at HWS so I designed a board based on the Atmel Mega 32 microcontroller. This sturdy chip still comes in DIP form factor and is really inexpensive. I wanted to keep the board design simple yet still allow lots of expansion for ports, LCD display, motor driver chip, etc. Here is a preliminary version of the board. I have moved around a number of port connectors since this image was made so the final version should be similar but with better parts placement. As things stand now, I should be using this board, more accurately students will be building it from parts, in the CPSC 226 course for Spring 2005.

VRC

The VRC software used by the Visual Resource Center in the Art and Art History department at HWS has been revised to version 3.1. This dot upgrade of the program builds on the previous release 3.0 which was a major rewrite of the entire program to use JSP behind an MVC architecture written in J2SE. The current version contains these improvements:

The VRC program allows cataloging, searching and display of the 150,000 slides in the Art Department. The collection is being digitized in high res format over the next three years but is fully cataloged and searchable. You can access the VRC here from on-campus or via VPN.

Older Robotics Hardware Projects

I spent a large part of 2000-2004 working on developing a collection of mobile robots that have a variety of capabilities, motor systems, sensors, etc. Along the way I needed to design and build prototypes for several subsystems and sensor packages such as an ultrasonic ranger, stepper motor control board, non-contact obstacle detector, and pyro sensor. You can find various photos of these robots below. Also included are some images from various contests we take these robots to each year.

Various Robotics Projects
Stepper motor board Schematic
Sonar ranger board Schematic
Pyro sensor board Schematic
Sharp GP2D05/02 Sensor Board Schematic

Robotics Contests

Kudos to Scotty Orr and the students entering the Trinity College Robot Firefighting Contest for 2005. I missed most of the action this year but the students enjoyed the contest and the robot festival for the CPSC 226 course held in the Geneva room to an overflow crowd. See Scotty's pages and the department announcements for more information.

We should be at Trinity again this year so anyone who is interested should contact me to get the ball rolling early this year.

Papers, publications, presentations

Departmental and Personal Grants