Saturday, November 22, 2014

Out and About Sensing - Citizen Science Part II

Since I wrote my last post about my Arduino projects I have learned a lot. I released my first project into the wild the night of the huge rain storm we had in September when north east Clark County experienced some intense flooding. On that weather station, which the boys and I call DRASTIC, I was logging humidity, temperature, light, time and soil moisture.  I was able to make readings for a while and capture some interesting data, however I found out the hard way that my system was not water tight. After about 21 hours of capturing data I shorted out one of the circuits and stopped capturing data.

This is the graph of our sensors the night of the big rain storm. You can see my system biffed it in the morning but we still managed to capture some interesting data.

This was the afternoon after the big flood and there was still a lot of water draining off Mormon Mesa. 

We also found this guy while we were out checking our Arduino system on Mormon Mesa. 

Since that time I have been building and testing more sensors to capture even more data with the Arduino system. One of the sensors that I have built and tested over the last month is a soil temperature monitor that captures data at 3, 6 and 12 inches below the soil.

the boys and I out checking on the system

Another one of the areas I have been experimenting with is utilizing solar panels and rechargeable batteries to power the Arduino system.  I can successfully run the Arduino system of my solar panels and record the data but during the low light and the night I am out of order. Since the nighttime is a time of activity in the desert and the low light conditions like a storm is when I really would like to be capturing data this is less than ideal. Because of this I have tried to wire up rechargeable AA batteries within the electrical system to store the needed energy. So far I have been able to extend the operating life of the Arduino system into the night for a while but I have not yet been able to make it through the night. This setup is still vulnerable through an extended weather even with heavy cloud cover for multiple days so there is still testing and experiments left to go. One of the requirements for my system is that it remains as small, light and cheap as possible. I know through larger batteries I could extend the life but once this system is built it will be deployed out in the hills so I want it to remain small.

Another of the huge breakthroughs that I have been able to make is to run my Arduino system off of AA batteries for an extended period of time. Out of the box the Arduino system will only run for approximately 6 hours off of 4 AA batteries. However through a series of articles on the web and countless hours of testing I was able to tweak the code to shut down the Arduino between readings and wake up on a timer interrupt.  This will be huge. I hope to take this enhancement and tie it together with what I have learned from the solar recharging experiments and tie it together so I can run my device, I hope, indefinitely.

With all that I have learned and built over the last two months I hope to get my Arduino based weather\environmental monitor back out into the wild and start building a repository of data for North Eastern Clark County that I can then use for future experiments and analysis.
This is the barometric pressure as registered through our Arduino in mid November. This is one of the sensor we are incorporating into our system 

One of the first projects I hope to do is start collecting data within some of the areas that have experienced wild fires within the Gold Butte region and start assembling the pieces for a larger scale analysis. I will continue to post updates on our projects.

the kids and I out checking on another iteration of our Arduino based weather station