This project is the outcome of multiple semesters work with ComEd to develop a reliable sensor platform. This platform is placed into sealed electrical vaults to provide accurate and precise calculation of various parameters to keep the vaults functioning and alert technicians before dangerous thresholds are met. This project won the Dean’s award for the Spring 2016 InterProfessional Project (IPRO) track.
Our team was organized into 2 groups – the electronic engineering team and the design team. Our circuit board design was created by the electronic engineering team. We took specifications from the hardware team and code team and made a board to our custom needs. This was a struggle since the team had never used a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) designing software tool before. Thankfully, the board was printed and functioned perfectly. The only issue that arose was that the team designed the board for surface mount components and not through-hole, and all we had were through-hole components. We managed to solder the components and the board to worked. The board was designed with expandability in mind. There are extra slots on the board where new and different sensors can be added if needed, provided that they also have the proper coding associated with them.
The design team was in charge of the materials used to build the box that holds the components, as well has the overall design and layout of the components themselves. It took a while for the design team to gain traction and develop a prototype for us. Many different materials were examined for our needs, but none were very viable economically. We decided to use simple acrylic material to make the box and sensor module. The actual design was created in AutoCAD and Inventor and was cut out of a sheet of acrylic material using the plasma cutter in Illinois Tech’s Idea Shop. Our first attempt failed as we did not properly measure the fitting of the notches in the box correctly. The holes had to be manually drilled since we were unsure of the layout of the entire setup. However, with all the parts assembled and wired, the box performed perfectly.
We designed the program like architects for a building. We figured out the functional needs that were required and designed the program. Sensors should work well on monitoring and reporting conditions if possible to read data from sensors. While monitoring data, if specific data goes over the limit, it needs to alert the vault manager. The program’s procedure is to receive and send data from sensors to the server. We set time intervals between each data send to prevent overwhelming the server.
We needed to choose which platform to use. Considering our goal of this project, we needed a platform to access the server easily and stably. We had three options which are Raspberry Pi, Photon, and Arduino. Raspberry Pi is good at operating multiple programs while Arduino is good for operating a single, but repeated, program. Among these options, Raspberry Pi has the most powerful network access using Wi-Fi. We were able to maximize the comfort of development by choosing Raspberry Pi and Python.
Devices are continuously becoming more and more advanced. Algorithms and powerful microchip sensor systems can analyze and turn large data into actual decisions and actions. In the Industrial Wireless Sensor Network (IWSN) Market, sensors are suited in hazardous or extreme applications as they can remotely transmit data to a control room, computer or even a Smartphone. These networks allow users to monitor, control, and troubleshoot remotely.
Learn more about Illinois Tech's Smart Lab - appliedtech.iit.edu/smartlab