What unique, creative, and interesting solutions do you think your students could devise when presented with this challenge?
Your challenge is to design and build a sensor-controlled watering system for a potted houseplant using your EV3 robotics kit. Your device should automatically water the plant when the soil is too dry but also stop when the soil is sufficiently wet. You will use a Vernier Soil Moisture Sensor to monitor the moisture level of your plant’s soil. The soil will be considered “too dry” when the moisture level falls below 20%, and sufficiently “wet” when the moisture level rises above 28%.
The programming and constructing of a sample solution for this challenge are clearly outlined in the teacher’s section of our Vernier Engineering Projects with LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education EV3 lab book. In our sample solution, we attach a LEGO® pneumatic pump to a LEGO® motor. A clear plastic water bottle is equipped with a 2-hole stopper, and tubing attaches from the bottle to the pump and from the bottle to the plant. We program this robot using a MINDSTORMS® Loop block that continuously monitors the reading from the Soil Moisture Sensor. If the reading is within the range, the robot does nothing; but if it falls below the threshold value, the program activates the motor to pump air into the bottle and push water out to the plant. The program waits to allow the water to percolate and loops back to monitor the sensor reading again.
When presenting this challenge to your students, one option is to share some, or all, of the sample solution with them. Another option is to have your students fully take on the challenge by allowing them to come up with their own distinct solution. This will undoubtedly lead to some truly imaginative, interesting, and fun ways to transport, carry, or splash water on a thirsty plant. For students who finish early or who want to pursue an independent project, the book also provides project extension ideas. In one project extension, a robot monitors the amount of light that the plant receives. If the light is too low, the robot must increase the light or warn the plant owner.
A real-world challenge like this introduces your students to the engineering design process. Students learn about robotics and programming, delve deeper into scientific principles, discover how sensors work, and learn how to solve problems as a team.
In keeping with Vernier’s long-standing commitment to environmental quality, we’ve made some recent changes to our LabQuest 2, LabQuest Mini, and sensor packaging. The boxes are now made of brown recycled materials rather than the former white, laminated cardboard. The LabQuest 2 box is made from 60% recycled materials and the LabQuest Mini box is made from 80% recycled materials. Other boxes are made from 60-65% recycled materials. Our new boxes are locally sourced in nearby Tualatin, Oregon, from a company that follows green practices.
In honor of Earth Day, employees worked with SOLV to pick up garbage around Beaverton Creek. Vernier Software & Technology donated $1,500 to SOLV for use in their Green Team Program. SOLV’s Green Team Program is a hands-on, student-directed watershed restoration service-learning program. In 2011-12, Green Team will work with 1,000 students in 40 classes in 8 schools in the Portland Metropolitan Area.
In addition, we held an Empty the Parking Lot Challenge to encourage employees to walk, bike, or take public transit in an effort to clear out our parking lot for the day. A T-Shirt/Book/DVD exchange was held, and employees were encouraged to suggest new work-related conservation ideas.
For Earth Day 2010, we continued our annual tradition of cleaning up trash around our building area, recycling tennis shoes, encouraging public transportation, and swapped used DVDs, CDs, and clothing.
New this year, we had an indoor scavenger hunt for employees to learn about all the environmental features at Vernier, such as vermicomposting, recycling, and solar energy.
We were honored to be presented with the “Business Partner Conservation Leadership Award” by The Nature Conservancy at a ceremony held on October 29, 2009 in Portland, Oregon. In presenting the award, it was said about Vernier Software & Technology:
“In a state renowned for green business, this software company raises the bar not only by making products that connect teachers and students with nature, but also by practicing a conservation ethic that includes sustainably designed facilities, green commuting, employee volunteerism for the environment, and nearly 15 years of supporting the work of The Nature Conservancy.”
In celebration of Earth Day, we held our annual “Swap It,” where employees swapped used books, shirts, and videos with each other. A recycling bin was provided for old tennis shoes, and everyone brought healthy snacks for the afternoon.
We also worked with SOLV to pick up trash and debris around Beaverton Creek. Dave Vernier and Jim McBride took a LabQuest with the Vernier GPS sensor to collect the location of the trees Vernier planted in Beaverton Creek a few years ago.
Did you celebrate Earth Day with Vernier technology? Let us know at email@example.com.
We have added 60, 60-watt Kaneka amorphous silicon solar photovoltaic panels to our roof. This brings our total rated output to 17,744 watts. Our existing solar panel system produced over 15,000 kWh of electrical energy last year, but with our new front panels, we hope to produce 18,000 kWh in 2008!