In creating this project, we were inspired by the current COVID pandemic and what we could do to limit the spread of disease. By utilizing laser time-of-flight sensors and stepper motors, we figured we could create a product that changes the way we use sinks. Automatic sinks aren’t new, but they come with downsides that make them undesirable for home or commercial use. First, they aren’t very adjustable to every person’s needs. In addition, their use cases are quite limited (imagine trying to wash dishes with one!), making them only seen in public hand-washing areas. Our goal was to make an automatic sink viable for home and commercial use.
What it does
The Ghost Faucet utilizes a laser TOF sensor and motor to allow precise touchless control over your faucet. By waving your hand up or down, you can control the flow rate of your faucet. A built in adjustable shut-off timer also ensures that no water gets wasted when you aren’t looking. It also allows for no-contact operation, making it even more feasible during the covid times. Our product also comes with an accompanying app that allows the user to track water usage as well as fine tune the sensor settings to whatever they desire. Our hope is that by providing these analytics, our users will gradually begin to save water and protect the environment.
How we built it
The Ghost Faucet project began with the hardware. Using a custom-made stepper motor library, we connected our motor to a laser TOF sensor to allow precise control over the motor’s coordinates. In addition, we opted to use an ESP-32 microcontroller, as its WiFi functionality will allow us to create an app to accompany it. The app is a locally hosted website that allows the user to input sensor settings and also view visually their water usage throughout the day. The backend was done in Flask and the UI in HTML and JS
Challenges we ran into
Codey: This was my first hackathon and first time I had anything to do with web app development! It was a lot to take in, learning about http protocols, but it was well worth it in the end.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
The gesture controls are super smooth and very fun to use in real life! In addition, we successfully set up the microcontroller to use network protocols to communicate with the Flask server, something nobody on the team had prior experience with.
What we learned
This was our first time utilizing the ESP32 for a WiFi app. This part posed the most challenging but after research into http requests and the correct libraries, we were able to successfully connect the ESP32 to a locally hosted network.
What's next for Ghost Faucet
Going forward we want to make the Ghost Faucet even more accessible. This includes making the hardware design more modular to fit all types of sinks and moving the app to a mobile platform to allow easier access.