Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Leigh Estabrooks to Visit Saratoga

On Thursday, November 8, Lemelson-MIT Program's InvenTeams grants officer Leigh Estabrooks will be visiting our class. Each student will have a chance to introduce themselves to Ms. Estabrooks, and discuss their accomplishments so far in our project. We look forward to Ms. Estabrooks' visit!

The Video Proposal

After Mr. Gallagher informed us that we had made it to the final 36 possible High School InvenTeam we as a class were eager to do something to help set ourselves apart. This video was made by our team to be a supplement to our grant proposal. Though the committee deciding our final fate was never allowed to view our video we though that you might want to check it out now and get a better idea of what we plan to do.

Enjoy - Elliott

Learning LabView with Tom White

Tomorrow, SSHS Engineers will be getting an awesome Halloween treat courtesy of Tom White. As previously mentioned Tom White is the Director of technology for Project Lead the Way. He has been kind enough to offer his help in demystifying the LabView Software which will be heavily utilized in the completion of our project. Check the blog tomorrow for more info about his visit and all the cool things we hope to learn from him.

Google Calendar Update

During the next two weeks we will be having a lot of visitors, meetings, and deadlines during class and after school. Many of our goals are dependant upon the outcome of these next few weeks’ events. Check out the official Google Calendar page for the InvenTeam to stay on top of what’s going on in class.

In the News: The Post Star

A column titled "Local students in national engineering event" by Omar Aquije was featured in the monday(Oct. 29,2007) edition of The Post Star. The section featured a general overview of the PAFSI project, and the Lemelson-MIT EurekaFest next spring. Mr. Gallagher is quoted saying, with respect to the project "the kids are really excited to be involved in this project" and "In the engineering world this is as big as it gets"

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Web Site

Web Design is a complicated and meticulous field. I have some training and have been appointed in charge of developing our web site. So far, I've made a few basic outlines for the design and content of the site, as well as a few prototypes of different components for the site. Chris and I have almost completed a basic web site using Google that has information on it, however it does not have Flash or images. The web site I am currently working on will be Flash based; we recently bought Studio MX which has a fantastic program for Flash and Web Design. A few basic things I hope to include on the site are links to this Blog, and pages about our current project, past projects, and a brief bio of each team member. Please feel free to come to me with any suggestions, or information you think belongs on the web site.

-Jeff S.

Analog vs. Digital

One problem that the pH group has run into is distinguishing between analog and digital pH sensors. Our research has shown us devices that do not digitally display pH levels. Instead, they display their measurements with a needle that moves back forth along a color-based pH chart. Are these devices digital or analog? If these devices are analog, can they still be integrated with Labview? Our group will most likely have to get our hands on several different types of pH sensors so that we can find out what will work best for our own device.

Greg J.

Electric Moisture Sensors

In my research of electric moisture sensors I have found a sensor that feeds information to a program called MultiLab. This kind of sensor is exactly the kind that we have been trying to find and expand on. The site is :http://www.fourier-sys.com/pdfs/sensors/soilmoisture_dt171a.pdf
I have found other sensors however they are not computer capable as far as I know. One of these is http://www.decagon.com/Ech2o/?gclid=CK3sqoKaqo8CFSasGgodPUq5Sg. I will continue to research electric sensors and hope to find even better products then the ones I have seen till now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

In the News: Pictures From the Times Union

Thursday, October 25, 2007

In the News: Times Union visits InvenTeam

The Times Union is the largest newspaper serving the Albany Capital Region. Check out todays edition to see two photos and a great article on the Saratoga Spring HS InvenTeam. We are psyched to have this awesome exposure and hope to see more and more in the near future. Below is the article as it appears in the paper or click this link to read it now.

Nurturing seed of invention:

High school class gets funding to build device to help grow better plants

Thursday, October 25, 2007

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Saratoga Springs High School technology teacher Michael Gallagher has experienced it, and he's willing to bet you have, too: that disappointing sensation of buying an expensive plant or flower, bringing it home, then watching it wilt, against your will, before your eyes.
If you could prevent that, you would. Gallagher and 14 seniors in his engineering design and development class hope to one day help you.
They have received a prestigious national grant to invent a prototype device that can be placed in soil to measure essential elements such as sunlight, moisture and soil acidity. The students also will develop a computer software database that users of the device can access for information about what plants are best suited for particular environments.
"The kids are really excited to be involved in this project," Gallagher said. "In the engineering world, this program is as big as it gets."
The high school is one of 16 nationwide this year, and the only one ever in upstate New York, to be awarded the Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology grant, which will provide up to $10,000 for the development of the intriguing product.
If it and the software work as expected, property owners looking to spruce up their neighborhoods could access the information to discover what kind of plants and flowers are best appropriate for their conditions. Or, perhaps, grow redder, more juicy tomatoes.
"It's a grant to solve a real problem," Gallagher said. "From growing up as a kid, I saw plants die immediately and other ones flourish."
Gallagher submitted the winning application last spring and learned of the award this month. MIT received hundreds of applications for the grant and selected only the most feasible proposals, Gallagher said.
The class will prepare its invention over the next eight months and present it before an audience of thousands in the spring at the InvenTeams Odyssey at MIT in Cambridge, Mass.
"I always get more nervous about this than the kids," Gallagher said.

Communicating Using Google

To many, Google is synonomous with searching the internet, but through the years Google has essentially become an online operating system. Among their developments are a variety of communication tools including GMail, Google Calendars, Google Groups, and Blogger. I will be creating a demonstration of how to optimize the performance of the services offered by Google in order to maximize the productivity of a team of people. It will be created as a video file, and hopefully we will be able to embed these tutorials into our website for anyone to view. The inspiration for these tutorials has come from MIT, and the work that they have done with their OpenCourseWare system.

- Tim G.

Meet the Groups

From reading the last few posts it is obvious the Saratoga InvenTeam is up to something. Baby steps are in full effect and we have split our team into three main groups. The First group is focusing on building a device to measure the pH level of a soil area. The Second group is doing the same but for moisture. And the final group is producing a 5 Plant database which will take the data collected by groups one and two and match their set of plants to the environmental factors.

Each group has been instructed to make a document of all long and short term goals as well as a summary of what their group is doing. That information will be posted to the blog soon.

Each group is set as follows:

G1: pH
MEMEBERS: Pete, Justin, Greg, Rob

G2: Moisture
MEMBERS: Tim V., Tim G., Susie

G3: 5 Plant Database
MEMBERS: Kurt, Mike, Steve, Andrew

Additional Sub-Groups are:

G(a): Web-Site Design

G(b): Logo Design
MEMBERS: Duncan, Susie, Mike, Juliana, Andrew

Finding Moisture Sensors

In my research of existing product I found an extensive list of different moisture sensors. They are all just pictures but this may help later with different designs of a product. Just some things to look at. No descriptions of how they work.

We Got Google Bombed!

Today we discovered that our blog has been google bombed. This google bomb is an anonymous comment to one of our posts that contains links to other websites. The settings of our blog prevented us from deleting comments to our posts. We now have changed it so that we can remove a comment to our posts if it has nothing pertaining to our group. Although we have changed the setup of our blog, we still can not go back and get rid of the one comment that had links back to their website because it pre-dated our change. We learned how we can change this in the future so that our blog will not just be a place where random people can put on links to their websites. This interesting experience let us learn about the history of google bombing.
We ask all of you to please disregard that particular comment on our blog because we do not endorse these websites.

Group 1: pH Level

In the short term, our group has tried to divide and conquer, with each person responsible for researching one pH measuring device and creating a pro's / con's table for using that device; this will be completed by class today so that we can discuss what we learned in class.

For the long term, we think that we can decide on the best 3 devices and purchase them online. This will allow us to have the actual device in class and break it apart - see how the wiring works.

Open source inspiration

Part of the inspiration for engineering projects ought to be to spread ideas and knowledge. In class, we learned that MIT has followed through on an initiative to make all of their lessons available on line for anyone to access. We think that this sharing of information should accompany any significant project. Therefore, as we research and learn about the technology and software that we will use for our device, we will make an effort to publish what we learn on line, where it is easily accessible. One goal we have is to create a tutorial for the Gantt software. This will be useful to spread the knowledge of how to use the software not only within our group, but also around the world. We want to make a commitment to spreading information.

This blog, itself, is just another example of sharing our ideas.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Group 2: Moisture

We have divided our ultimate goal into three main tasks. The first task is finding more information concerning electric sensors, which will be covered by Tim V. The second task is to determine how soil type affects soil moisture. In doing this we must identify the most efficient way to determine soil type as well. This will be covered by Juliana and Tim G. Finally, the third task is researching other methods of determining soil moisture, which will be covered by Susie. My Dad is a civil engineer at a local engineering firm and will be coming in soon to talk with the group about different soil types.

- Juliana

Group 3: Five Plant Database

We are going to start with five vegetables and each member in this group will research one vegetable. By Friday we plan to have the necessary pH and moisture levels for each plant. Members of this group will also be familiarizing themselves with LabView. We plan to use LabView heavily within this group and the project as a whole.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Getting Organized with Gantt

During the recent conversation with Leigh Estabrooks it was recommended that we form some sort of task management calendar. Her mentioning of the Gantt Model led me to find an awesome program which our InvenTeam is now using. GanttProject, a free and user friendly Gantt chart based project scheduling and management tool, is already making our recording, follow through, and planning of tasks very easy to keep up on as well as easy to understand. As soon as I can figure out how we plan to publish our Gantt Chart to the internet as so anyone can check in on our team and individual progress.

Also, thank you to GanttProject for the awesome software as well as Leigh Estabrooks for the recommendation.

- Elliott

Baby Steps

During tomorrows class we will be meeting as a whole class to discuss our next step in the PAFSI Project. At this meeting all team members will choose groups to be part of, then each group will choose a group leader and form an initial plan and set of goals for their group.

After our brief conversation with Leigh Estabrooks we decided based on her advise and the ideas of people present for the conversation that taking baby steps is the way to go. The plan is to split into three groups. Two groups will be assigned variable, either pH or moisture, and are to form a device to measure the status of that variable in an environment. The third group will be assigned five common vegetables. The ideal pH and moisture of those five vegetables must be found and programs to collect and translate the data to a user friendly form are to be made.

After tomorrows meeting this post will be updated to display the members of each group and the roles each member will play in their group. All members should get started with thinking about what group they would like to join and what contribution they believe they can make to the group.

See you tomorrow - Elliott

In the News: Times Union Visits Class

The Times Union, a newspaper for the Albany Capital Region, sent a photographer to get photos for an upcoming article on the P.A.F.S.I. Project and Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Grant. An interview with Mr. Gallagher had been done prior to the photos on the phone but the photographer mentioned a follow up story's later in the year as we get closer and closer to the ultimate solution.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Discussion with Leigh Estabrooks

At today's after-school meeting we had a telephone conversation with the Lemelson-MIT program's grant officer, Leigh Estabrooks. We talked about different goals to set as well as how to best manage our resources as to have the best project possible come the end of the year. Leigh Estabrooks plans to visit us soon to view our progress and give us direction. We are all very excited to meet her soon.

- Rob

In the News: ABC WTEN Channel 10 Comes to Class

Today ABC WTEN News anchor Mark O'Brien visited our Saratoga Springs High School Invent Team members. After receiving the high schools own press release WTEN was first to respond. Various members of the class were interviewed and filmed during the class and meeting our Invent Team held today and the segment is planned to air during the 6:00 News segment this evening. Capital Region viewers can tune in to channel 10 tonight to watch the segment.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tom White to Demystify LabView

Tom White is the Director of Operations and Technology for PLTW. On a recent phone call between Tom White and Mr. Gallagher, Tom White mentioned his willingness to help us learn LabView. He has said that he is working on a LabView tutorial and would love to come meet our class and help us learn the program. We are very excited that Tom White is comming to join our group and help us learn to use this cutting edge software.

- Peter

Meet LabView

Gallagher is very adiment about the usufulness of LabView. I have checked out videos online that demonstrate what it is capable of doing and I am impressed. It does appear to take a good deal of work and practice to use correctly due to the apparent complication of the system. Hopefully we can figure out how to take advantage of this awesome software.


Here is a link to a really cool video of what LabView can do. Check it out.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Team Calendar

With our first deadlines and goals set in place I thought it might be a good idea to post the deadlines on our EDD Class calendar. After realizing almost every day has an activity on it I decided a separate calendar for our specific goals and deadlines should be made. Either search Google Public Calendars for "SSHS Invent Team Project" and join the group or send me an e-mail at elliott.poppel@gmail.com and I will add you to the administrator list.

Thanks - Elliott

P.S. - For anyone who wishes to view our calendar and check in on our meeting schedule the link is available. Simply click the link and follow the easy directions to join our calendar.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Getting the Ball Rolling...

Now that we officially have the grant from MIT it's time to get the ball rolling. In today's team meeting we set split into different groups to start compiling the background information and utilities we will need to make the PAFSI Project become a reality. Here are the groups and tasks assigned to the groups as discussed today.

a. Talk to Gardening Experts
b. Access Cornell Plant Database

2) VARIABLE MEASURING: Rob, Tim G, Juliana
a. Effects of Basic Variables on Plant Growth

a. Identify Products that measure Basic Variables

4) SOFTWARE: Duncan, Peter
a. Find Software to use w/ Database

Juliana has the actual notes from the meeting so this is just what I remember. You get the gist. If anyone has any questions or feels that anything should be added or clarified leave a comment or e-mail me at elliott.poppel@gmail.com.

Thanks - Elliott