We are a group of five people from Haaga-Helia, Finland, studying degree programme in business information technology.
Our goal is to learn new while having fun! So far we are working on a device that helps in everyday safety matters in home, such as reminding to close the front door, and alert if the stove or tap is on. Device is mainly aimed to the elderly and those with an attention disorders, since it may be more common for them to forget to check these things, but we believe that this will be useful for everyone. Feeling safe is something that resonates with all of us, and our device would help everyone to feel more secure about our estates, since the device we invented could prevent for example fires, water damages and burglary.
Our first idea was a pot for plants that measures the humidity, need for water etc. the plant needs. We also had an idea for a ‘recipe bank’ that would have recipes for different kinds of meals and it would generate them automatically for the user. Because the plant pot had been already done previously in this course, we decided to do a device that tells whether door is closed, stove is on or tap is running.
What did we need to learn
We needed to learn to use Arduino and all the objects required to make the device. The objects we needed to make were the door sensor, the stove sensor and the tap sensor. The use of Arduino also required understanding a bit of C++ language in order to build the device. Therefore we had to gain understanding of different libraries for Arduino.
We then needed to know how to connect the device to internet for the device to inform about the state of door, stove and tap. Lastly we had to learn how to put the information on a website that it could be easily read and browsed by the user, and this required a bit of understanding of PHP that we have not used before.
The building phase
First of all we build the base for our first device that was the sensor used for determining whether the door is open or closed.
After building the base we were able to connect the door sensor device to the internet by using ESP32 and simplify the device.
Next we continued to work on the code for the door sensor to make is work correctly. We needed to have the sensor to tell us if the door is open or closed and to store the information.
We also managed to build the water sensor and it succesfully measured and alerted when water was detected. Upcoming problem was to figure out how to get the information online so we needed to connect the sensor to ESP32 and get the information stored somewhere.
We were able to connect infrared sensor to our device for the stove sensor, which alerts when the temperature is more than 25 C. We then were able to log the information from all of the sensors to the website.
For some reason suddenly our code only printed out the number 20 on the website when the stove sensor was triggered. We had a hard time figuring out why it did that, but in the end found out that we merely needed to define our variables differently.
After setting up our device we then made a website that logged all the information from the device and thus alerts the user whether there is a door open, a stove on or water running. The website was made in PHP language. It has instructions for the user first and below that the alerts are shown.
At first we learned new innovation techniques for brainstorming. We used 6-3-5 brainwriting method when we started to think about ideas for our project and also were introduced to lotus blossom innovation tool.
Arduino was not familiar to any of us before so we learned lots of new things regarding it, including a new coding language and how to use libraries. We also got a chance to improve our teamworking and communication skills as well as project management skills.
We learned that when debugging, you should only make one change at a time and then examine what that changed before moving on to the next. Ideally you should also save the previous versions so that you would have working versions of the product even though your edits would break the code. This learning process came from trial and error, so in the future we will definitely be more concious regarding this matter.
Fundamentally we learned to simplify things and not to think too complicatedly. We also learned to be more confident in trying new things and believing in ourselves on having the ability to learn new things that seem complicated at first.
Did this course make you more interested in tinkering, or was this a one-off thing for you?
We all think this was a fun project to do. We did not have any knowledge beforehand of this field but a lot of us think it would be fun to work on projects more afterwards. What surprised us was that even though we did know almost anything about the topic before and despite the difficulties we had at times, we were able to learn new things and conduct an actual working device.
What further ideas did you get for making in the future?
For further development of our device we think that the design of the device could be improved. In addition there could also be an app for the device, so it would be easier for the user to browse and receive the alerts. Perhaps we could also invent additional sensors or other matters that would help the user feel more safe. It would also be nice to maybe someday go back to our other ideas we had on try to create a prototype for those, or maybe even a finished product of them or our original idea.