Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Blog Features

Over the past few days you may have noticed some serious changes and upgrades to our blog. Along with new videos being posted we have also now paid tribute to our sponsors and added a new poll feature.

Yeah, I know the poll is kind of lame. Just give it a whirl. It will be cool to see what the results will be.

Otherwise, enjoy checking out the cool new stuff we have added and stay tuned for more to come.

- Elliott

Happy Birthday Mr. Gallagher!!!

Today in class, with help from Mr. Gallaghers wonderful fiancée Miss Holmes, we threw Mr. Gallagher the greatest birthday party ever. The room was decorated with balloon, streamers, and blown up pictures of Mr. Gallagher in middle school all over the room. It could not have been any more gaudy and obnoxious if we tried.

Happy Birthday Mr. Gallagher! Thank you so much for being the dedicated and enthusiastic teacher you are. Not only would our InvenTeam not be what it is today with out you but I know many students in this class as well as myself credit you for helping make us the people we are today. Thank you so much for everything you do for us. Happy birthday and many more!

Oh, and FYI, Juliana and I are coming back next year and doing the same thing!

Happy Birthday -

Elliott and The Team

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Automating the Garden Consultant Video


When we released our Information/Overview Video we also sent an e-mail to various members of the Cornell Horticulture Department. Up until very recently we had not told them that their packet, "Site Assessment for Gardeners", was the basis for our entire project.

Within twenty-four hours we began receiving enthusiastic responses from various gardening experts. We received numerous questions as to what our plan was and in response we made this video to explain our basic plan to modify and automate the Cornell packet.

We could not be any more excited to have the leading Horticulture experts from Cornell on board and can not wait for their responses to the solutions and adaptations we have posed.

Without the help from people, organizations, and companies we would not be where we are today. Within the next few weeks we will have a basic working model of the Garden Consultant on-line and accessible for you all to test out. I could not be any more excited, I hope you all are too.

- Elliott

Monday, January 28, 2008

Informational/Overview Video



Above is the Saratoga Springs HS InvenTeams Informational/Overview Video. This video was made to explain our goals to the many people and organizations that are helping us as well as those whose help we would like to enlist.

A major part of this video is an explanation of the cornerstone of our project the Cornell "Site Assessment for Gardening" Workbook. As you read in Juliana's previous post we have sent out this video to horticulture experts at Cornell and we have begun recieving feedback from them. We are in the process now of creating a powerpoint presentation that will dive deeper into expalining our plans for automating the Cornell Workbook.

This is a very exciting time as we are getting closer and closer to a working prototype. As of now we have sucesffuly built a basic working model which runs on user inputed data and we could not be more excited. Obviouly great things are going on and more great things are to come. I hope you enjoy the video and we can not wait to show you an on-line working prototype in the near future.

Thanks -


Happy Birthday LEGO!

I think it is safe to say that at one point in every engineers life he or she plays with Legos. Legos are arguably the greatest toy ever invented and today marks the 50th Anniversary of the Lego brick. In celebration Google got a little creative with their logo, Gizmodo made a really sweet timetable, and even Lego is celebrating with a commemorative Town Plan set based on one of their first sets.

Legos were a major part of my childhood as well as almost everyone elses childhood I can think of. Happy Birthday Lego, and many more!

- Elliott

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cornell University Professor Nina Bassuk Becomes Involved

Earlier this week I contacted some of the contributors to the Site Assessment for Gardeners Workbook. This is one of the many valuable resources offered by Cornell University that has been very useful to our project. It outlines exactly what a gardener would need to discern about their gardening site in order to properly assess which plants to grow there. In our case, it has shown us exactly what variables our device will need to measure. As we are working on automating modifications to the manual site tests described in the Site Assessment for Gardeners Workbook, we thought it would be a good idea to make sure our modifications were accurate replications of the original tests, and who better to ask than the authors themselves. Cornell University Professor Nina Bassuk has generously offered to evaluate our modifications and provide suggestions on how to make them more accurate or appropriate to our project. We greatly appreciate Professor Bassuk's support, and cannot wait to work with her!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Help from Vernier

One revolutionary component of the Garden Consultant is the physical device that will acquire data from the soil. Unfortunately, this means we need a physical device to acquire data. In our research, we have found several possibilities for DAQs (Data AcQuisition devices).

Mr. Tom White generously donated a Vernier SensorDAQ to help us along. After hearing about our project, Mr. David Vernier donated several sensors including a soil moisture sensor and a temperature probe. These senors were designed for the SensorDAQ and are automatically detected and set up for easy use.

However, our project requires sensors that Vernier doesn't offer. I built a sunlight sensor using a photo-resistor, but couldn't connect it to our SensorDAQ because we were lacking the "screw terminal connector". After a quick email to Mr. Vernier, the connector was in the mail and the project was able to continue.

At this stage in the project, we are realizing that our device will not be composed of simple, compatible pieces of hardware. In order to create a truly innovative device, we will need both creativity in our group and support from our sponsors. Thank you, Mr. Vernier, for your generosity and quick response.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Eco-Friendly Thinking from Saratoga Springs

A few days ago Leigh Estabrooks and other people from Lemelson-MIT asked all of the 2007-2008 InvenTeams to answer a few questions regarding our views on the environment and the future of engineering. A few other team members and I had a brief chat about the questions proposed and submitted our response to the blog. With the current state of the environment and the changes that we are seeing in the environment world-wide it is important that we as future engineers consider the effects we have on the environment and work to make the world a better place. Here is what we had to say.

- Elliott

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Server Hosting by Spa.Net

The Saratoga Springs HS InvenTeam would like to thank local internet provider Spa.Net for hosting the server we are using (which was donated by Bruce Hodge). After the recent donation we had to find a service provider to host the server. Thanks to generosity of Spa.Net we will have our server and the Garden Consultant up and running in no time.

Thank you so much for your help and support and we look forward to showing you the cool work we are doing in the near future. Our work would not be possible without you.

Thanks -
Elliott Poppel & The SSHS InvenTeam

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Programming Progress & The Great Inventor

The image on the left is from an article in Times Union "People who make a difference" That's Bruce all right!!! He was a feature recipient receiving this dignified distinction for his innovative work with his targeting systems as well as holding several patents. He has helped immensely giving of his time and bringing a vast knowledge and passion for creativity.

Bruce Hodge met with us again this last Monday. He taught us to use a program called NoteTab. This program gives us the ability of writing and testing HTML, CSS, and Perl scripts. This program will make it easier for creating our website for our project. He also worked with Jeff to better understand how MySQL works. Jeff has now started to create our database of plants.

We have been making some real visible progress with the Garden Consultant and having a genius like Bruce Hodge only a phone call away to answer our programming questions this project could not be going any better.

Bruce, thanks so much for your time and we can't wait to have you in class again.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Central Desktop: Collaboration at its Best!

For the past month or so the Saratoga Springs HS InvenTeam has been making use of a web-based collaboration, communication, and file-sharing utility called Central Desktop. I found this program when my G-Mail account happened to have a news feed about it across the top of my inbox. We started using it immediately as an easier and more organized way of sharing files and since then we have begun taking advantage of many of its other features, especially now that we have been donated a full access Corporate Central Desktop Account where we can now host web-meetings, manage tasks, send out automatic reminders, and store all our documents among other things. This is an amazing tool and I can not express how awesome it is to have all the great tools that Central Desktop offers at our InvenTeams disposal.

A special thank you to Isaac Garcia, CEO and Co-Founder of Central Desktop, for donating to us this account and enabling us to use his awesome program. Central Desktop is by far the coolest tool the web has to offer and it has become the cornerstone of our InvenTeam. I can not thank Mr. Garcia and all of you at Central Desktop enough for you help and your work. Not only is this a huge asset to our work now, but I personally will be using Central Desktop in college and in my professional life.

Thanks for all your help -

MySQL: To create web databases

This weekend, my social life has been great: I have spent nearly all my time with a friend named MySQL, who happens to be a database programming application. But on the serious side, SQL is an extremely powerful language for database creation. It is exciting to use, since as you learn more about it, the possibilities grow exponentially.

Initially, I had trouble completing the software installation on my own. I called Bruce Hodge and he helped me get everything up and running. Once the the set-up was complete he helped me program in the database, it was really cool. He helped me input data and write some analytics stuff from 9:30-11:30 on a Friday night, which is awesome.

Anyway, MySQL is Fun with a capital F. Plus, we have now breached into the mysterious realm of online databasing. There is no turning back - I'm addicted.

- Jeff P

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Moving Forward & New Group Leaders

With us entering into a fresh New Year our team has decided to try some fresh new management. The way our InvenTeam has been set up is that one Project Manager oversees three Group Leaders who oversee the group members in their task specific groups. This system allows for easy communication and teamwork between people with similar tasks as well as easy flow of communication and information between the three groups.

Jeff Pawlick, Juliana Wakeman, and Duncan Boehle have done an awesome job keeping their groups on task during the research phase of our project but new leaders Rob Colpoys, Tim Vanasdale, and Steve Rancour are going to take a whack at being Group Leaders for the next few months.

Rob will be taking over Group #1 which will focus on Database and Information. This group will be using mySQL and Excel to create a plant database for use in the Garden Consultant.

Tim will be heading up Group #2 which will focus on Sensor Development and Automation. This group will identify and utilize sensors and existing programs which will automate the user-entry of personal garden information into the Garden Consultant.

Steve will be in charge of Group #3 which will focus on Application Programming. This group is in charge of the creation of a working web-site which in essence will be the Garden Consultant. Using the practices Bruce Hodge has introduced to us (including Perl, HTML, Apache, PHP...) they will be heading up the creation of a web-site which will take user inputted data and cross check it against a our Database to match the perfect plants to a users environment.

We now have a solid plan as to how we will very soon be bringing our prototype Garden Consultant to life. It will be fun and exciting seeing our hard work and research finally paying off as we watch our invention start to grow into a final product.

Within the next week I will be posting a description of exactly how the Garden Consultant will work and our plans for the invention. This is an exciting time for the SSHS InvenTeam and we can not wait to have our fully functioning Garden Consultant available on-line for you all to try.

Keep checking in on our blog and I look forward to posting good news to you soon.

- Elliott

Thanks PLTW! : SSHS InvenTeam Polos

When we arrived back from our Holiday Break yesterday we found an awesome gift sitting in our class room.

Thank you Mr. Richard Blais and everyone at PLTW for your generous donation of these team shirts as well as your support of our InvenTeam. The polo shirts you donated to our team look great and we cannot wait to proudly sport them at MIT this June as well as at the RPI-Lemelson Award Ceremony next month. The shirts are awesome and we could not thank you and everyone at Project Lead the Way enough for your donation.
Thanks - Elliott

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Pictures: The Team in its Natural Habitat.

If you go the InvenTeams Web-Site and follow the links to the pictures page you can check out some awesome pictures Leigh Estabrooks took of our team at work during her first visit. Just something cool you might want to check out.
- Elliott

Soil Drainage

The soil drainage group is searching for new ways to measure soil drainage that we could incorporate into our project. Soil drainage is measured by variety of test presented in the gardening packet. We plan to include this as a automated process in our device. With the use of labview and moister detectors we can make the test more accurate and easier.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Search Results

Though the image is a little hard to see what you are looking at is Google Search results for "InvenTeam". Out of 3,050 results the Saratoga Springs HS InvenTeam Blog ranks number two, only behind the official InvenTeam web-site. Obviously we are drawing quite a bit of attention in the InvenTeams Universe and as we get closer to EurekaFest! and people start searching to find out whats going on, its pretty cool to know that were #1.

This is a pretty cool way to start off the New Year. I hope everyone had a great holiday break and for those of you not on the InvenTeam, check back soon as we unveil the new direction of the Garden Consultant as well as changes in management.

- Elliott