Tuesday, November 27, 2007

An Introduction to Soil Types with Mr. Wakeman

Today, Richard Wakeman, Vice President at C.T. Male Associates, P.C. and most important of all Juliana's Dad, visited our class after school to explain to us how soil type may effect our project as well as provide resources to us to help measure soil type.

One of the coolest things he showed us was a Soil Survey. Every county across the U.S. is required to have a soil survey done. This survey provides information on the soil type, growing conditions, moisture, pH, and various other elements pertaining to soil conditions.

I agree with Mr. Wakeman that starting off geographically would be the best way to start. The group of team members at this meeting also concluded that using a dichotomous key to have the consumer easily identify their soil type may be our best option for tackling this important variable.

Mr. Wakeman also offered us the contact information of a representative from the local organization that conducts the county's Soil Survey as well as another expert in this field. Mr. Wakeman was a huge help and we look forward to seeing him soon and thank him for his time.

- Tim V.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bruce Hodge Lends Helping Hand

The InvenTeams Computer Integration Group recently met with local inventor, Bruce Hodge. Mr. Hodge is the founder of local company Tech Valley Technologies which produces targeting systems for use by the U.S. Military and in Police Officer Training.

He discussed with us past projects he has done using LabView as well as using DAQs to acquire data. Bruce offered guidance to us by letting us bounce ideas off of him and him offering us multiple solutions to our problems and explaining to us the pros and cons of each. Mr. Hodge also introduced us to the Descision Making MAtrix of DMM which we plan to use heavily in deciding which DAQ as well as which sensors to purchase.

Mr. Hodge was a huge help and we had a great time visiting with him and look forward to seeing him again soon.

- Steve

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The InvenTeam Mega Blog

For those of you that are unaware, there is a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Class of 2008 Mega Blog where different representatives of the Lemelson Foundation, MIT, and past and present InvenTeam Members can post about the grant program and their teams accomplishments.

I have just posted the first post for the SSHS InvenTeam on the blog. Check it out at the InvenTeams Blog Site to see what we have written as well as read about what other teams are up to around the Nation.

- Elliott

Monday, November 19, 2007

Got Sensors? We do!

One of the many resources available to us as a Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam is the support of various corporations in fields related to what we are doing.

Vernier Software & Technology is one of those companies generous enough to not only talk to us personally about what we are doing but also donate a few sensors to us. After talking personally to the president of the company, David Vernier himself, he offered to send us a few sensors to use as well as gave us a little guidance as to how to go about identifying future sensors to purchase. Since we are going to be taking measurements direct from the soil and not from an aqueous solution the number of sensors available to us is limited and Mr. Vernier pointed us in the right direction.

Mr. Vernier, if you are reading this, thank you so much for your help.

- Elliott

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Birthday AutoCAD!

On Thursday November, 15 AutoCAD celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Saratoga InvenTeam utilizes Autodesk Inventor(a similar product) to generate designs and prototypes for the PAFSI product. Such incredible technology has allowed for beautiful and complex 3D designs to be generated quickly and effectively. The result is increased individual productivity and possiblity for near unilimted achievements.

"What AutoCAD did, if you look at a snapshot of the past 25 years, was really to democratize computer-aided drafting,"-Mark Fritts senior manager Autodesk

Before AutoCAD's debut in 1982, computer aided drafting programs were confined to very large corporations and large universities while the smaller companies and individuals relied on the tried and true method of lead pencils and drafting boards, a long and labor intentsive process. Interestingly, the software's main selling point today is the same today as it was the year of its birth: productivity. Whether used to design the tooling and instrumentation on Boeing airplanes or the aquatic O stage for Cirque du Soleil, AutoCAD continues to help designers and engineers complete complicated projects faster and with far fewer people.

"It puts all this power into your hands. One designer can do what it took two or three to do before." - Andy Logan, a principal designer at Frog Design

-Peter Snyder

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An Interesting Side Note

In researching various sensors and power sources for our PAFSI device, we ran across in article about a associate professor of agriculture who has been able to optimize sensors and power sources for use in a plant environment.  Lei Tian was featured in the June 2007 issue of Growing magazine for his beta version of a fully autonomous weed removal robot.  The weed-seeking robot according to Tian's website, "explores the theory, implementation, and real-time application of a machine vision system used as a sensor for an outdoor field robot."  The robot is just one example of how automation can be used in a planting environment by collecting data from sensors and connecting with a database to determine plant type. 
- For more information about Lei Tian's invention visit his website  or check out Gardening Magazine

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Blog Features

Hey Everyone -

Using the free tracking software from Google Analytics we have been monitoring the traffic on our blog since its inception at the start of the project. Using this data we have been able to watch as visitors rushed to our site after seeing us on the news or reading about us on the paper and now that we have reached over 250 visitors to our site we are happy to offer a new way to keep up on whats going on with the Saratoga Springs High School InvenTeam.

As you will notice if you scroll down the page we now have two new features. Google users can now add a feed to their iGoogle Home Page where they can get up to the minute updates through our posts or if your feeling really adventurous you can even sign up for our e-mail feed which will e-mail you with every new blog post. All of these new services and more to come are offered for free from FeedBurner, a media distribution and audience engagement service which was recently purchased by Google.

Using products such as those listed above to inform our audience as well as communicate within our group are just some of the awesome new experiences the InvenTeam Project is allowing us to do. Through this project we have been exposed to tons of awesome new technologies that we will with no doubt use in our post-graduate future. Through this grant we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to use these cool technologies today.

Thanks -

Thursday, November 8, 2007

First Visit with Leigh Estabrooks

Today we had our first visit from MIT. Leigh Estabrooks, a grant officer for the Lemelson-MIT Program's InvenTeams came to class to check in on our progress and update us on how the InvenTeam process works. After reviewing Ms. Estabrooks' PowerPoint presentation on the InvenTeam as a whole, each group leader from our three inter-project research groups presented a progress report for their individual groups.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Web Site

I invite you to take a look at our web site:


The site features information about our project, an overview of Saratoga Springs High School's Project Lead the Way program, and projects previously completed in the Engineering Design and Development class. Check back for updates as our project continues.

Monday, November 5, 2007

In The News: Saratogian Article

Grant Enables Invention Project

By Ann Marie French, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Some seniors at Saratoga Springs High School have been given an opportunity to develop an invention that could change the way people plant gardens and crops on both a local and global level. The group, Saratoga Springs InvenTeam, is made up of 14 seniors enrolled in Michael Gallagher's Engineering, Design and Development course. They were recently awarded a Lemelson-MIT grant which will provide up to $10,000 in funding to develop a device which will evaluate soil and match it against a database to provide a list of the plants and flowers which are most likely to successfully grow in it."Rather than you changing the garden environment to suit the plants, you find the perfect plants for your environment," said student Elliott Poppel who is serving as the project director. Poppel and his peers, in compliance with grant requirements, will be responsible for developing the device over the next eight months and presenting it in the spring at the InvenTeam Odyssey at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thousands are expected to attend the event, which will be part of the larger Lemelson-MIT Program's Eureka-Fest. "I just think this is so exciting," said Juliana Wakeman, one of only two girls on the team. "The fact that we have these opportunities at the high school level is exciting." With her best subject being math and her father an engineer, Wakeman's interest in the topic is not surprising. She took the required half year of technology in middle school like the rest of her peers. Those classes piqued her interest and when she moved on to high school she looked for additional opportunities with the technology department. "All the teachers are great," she said. "Mr. Gallagher will never tell you you can't do something. He may tell you how difficult it might be, but he let's us know the sky is the limit and encourages us the whole way." Wakeman, who expects to study aeronautical and astronautical engineering in college, serves as leader for one of three research groups within the larger group. She said one of her jobs is to simply keep others on task and focused on the research. "Everyone gets an equal opportunity," she said. "Everyone gets to take ownership of the project." That teamwork and level of communication rank high on Poppel's interest in the group.Unlike most of the other group members, Poppel views his involvement as great training for business management. "This gives me real work experience in helping me learn how to communicate with people," he said. Gallagher said the team members are committed to the project, which requires them to not only work on it during the scheduled class, but also several days each week after school for a few hours at a time. Although the course typically facilitates smaller projects in small group settings, this year's project would not have been possible without the grant said Gallagher. "Without the money it's hard to be innovative and creative," he said. For her part, Wakeman said she is working on encouraging an increased awareness at the middle school level about the high school technology program and its involvement with Project Lead the Way. She and several other students will be speaking to middle school students later this year.The team has been keeping a blog which includes a video they submitted as part of their application package. The blog can be accessed by logging on to http://saratogainveteam.blogspot.com.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

In the News: An Article at CNet News

I was wandering around the internet today and guess what I found. An article about the Lemelson-MIT InvenTeams Program on the CNet News Web-Site. It does not specifically mention our team but as you will see we are mentioned in the comments. Hopefully this article will bring world-wide attention to the InvenTeams as well as world-wide attention to our group. Check it out.

- Elliott

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tom White's Enlightening Visit

This Wednesday, Tom White visited our Inventeam group in order to give us a basic preview of LabVIEW's capabilities. It was very enlightening!
First, Mr. White showed us a video of a LabVIEW-powered robot that, with feedback, could sustain a bipedal walking motion; it did so by obtaining and analyzing data from accelerometers in real time. We then discussed LabVIEW's ability to create logic circuits and integrate with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. This verified LabVIEW's potential as a very powerful software package.
He then showed us a piece of hardware named sensorDAQ that serves as a "middle-man" between sensors and a computer. This piece of hardware will serve as a great asset in our project, allowing us to either use sensors that have already been certified by Vernier or convert our own sensors into a recognizeable voltage. We are currently researching other DAQ hardware, and Tom White has certainly led us in the right direction.