ComPost was inspired by the both the social and environmental benefits the project offers. As undergrads in college, we have heard of countless stories of people having their plants die. At the same time, we also know how hard it can be to form a community of trust with the busy lives that we all lead. The ComPost accessory aims to solve both these problems with minimal affort on the part of the users.
What it does
ComPost is an accessory that may be added to gardens or plants in shared spaces or communites. The camera and suite of sensors will constantly monitor the plants conditions encouraging members of the space to care for it at certain times. However, the other goal behind the project is to act as a social catalyst, engaging with members of the community away from the technological distractions that we face everyday (even if it is just for a few minutes). As such, the software will prompt members of the community to do tasks with the plant at similar timings so as to encourage this interaction.
How we built it
We build the product using a raspberry pi, camera, moisture sensor, humidity sensor, and light sensor. These sensors constantly monitor the plant and relay this information to a website hosted on the raspberry pi. The website allows members of the community to stay updated on the plant and prompts users to do tasks related to plant care at certain timings. We also built a sample garden using 4 plants and laser cut plywood.
Challenges we ran into
A large challenge was hosting the website on the raspberry pi, in particular, Brown's secure wifi network made it tough to communicate via ssh with the pi. Another challenge was calibrating all the sensors and ensuring that each system worked seamlessly.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Given our differing interests in computer science and mechanical engineering, we are proud of working as a team and learning from each others strengths in creating this project. Rehaan taught me a lot about design and hardware, all the way from ideation, to design with Adobe tools, to laser-cutting a quarter-inch piece of plywood. Komron, on the other hand, taught me a lot about what creating a modern web application really entails, including new frameworks and css libraries that make it easier to create a good looking and performant website. Overall, we could not be more proud of each learning more about our shared interests and passion for creating as we both scrambled to create ComPost.
What we learned
We learned what it takes to make your idea come to vision. Initially each of us thought that just the hardware or the software might be enough to speak for the project, but we were very much mistaken. Compost needed the full stages of product design: ideation, user interviews, and marketing materials. Needless to say, we learned a lot about how a project truly comes alive.
What's next for ComPost
Compost only has room to grow (pun intended)! While we did create a demo website and hackily wrote some sensor and imaging code, we believe that both the application and hardware side of things could be improved for a greater, smoother user experience. We can add more sensors for better information, and improve on the social aspects of our application. This would be done by including features such as live monitoring, and a scheduling system for plant care and watering that encourages people to meet and talk.
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