BruinAlarm is our hardware hack for IDEA Hacks 2020.

Project Statement

BruinAlarm aims to improve the lifestyle of college students everywhere by simultaneously improving their academic performance and allowing them to comfortably take a nap anywhere on campus as well as to avoid waking their roommates with a loud alarm in the morning.

Project Background

College: the first taste of independence for the vast majority of young adults. It introduces them to an environment where they can gain the knowledge, skills, and independence to forge their own path in life. It introduces them to a vibrant and diverse group of people, one that they may not otherwise have been exposed to. However, such an invaluable experience comes with great cost as tuition costs continue to increase and student loan debt is at an all-time high, yet wages have stagnated; thus, it is vital that the college experience be as efficacious as possible to maximize its worth.

Many obstacles arise in a student's journey to maximize the college experience. Such obstacles include a heavy course load, extracurricular responsibilities, and personal matters. Each obstacle induces unnecessary stress on the student, which introduces a plethora of problems. One of the main issues that arises as a result of this induced stress is lack of proper sleep, which leads to daytime sleepiness. As college students ourselves, we recognize the importance of academic success and the sacrifices that have to be made to achieve said success. That being said, we also recognize that a good night's sleep plays a pivotal role in our overall health and performance in and out of the classroom. Knowing that the majority of students - including us - will sacrifice a proper good night's sleep for top marks in our courses, we decided to build a vibrating alarm and incorporate that into a comfortable, portable pillow that students can take with them anywhere on campus. That way, they can take quick naps in between classes and allow their brains to rest for the inevitable all-nighter.



Daytime sleepiness is a major problem experienced by college students, due to the lack of sleep students obtain. 70.6% of students report getting less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep every night, and 82.1% said they took a form of medication to aid in sleep.[1] Failing to obtain the recommended amount of sleep every night are caused by a host of factors, some of which include all-nighters; the consumption of caffeinated beverages and energy drinks; the use of stimulants, such as adderall; and the prevalent use of technology. All of these incur negative consequences on the student, academically and otherwise.

College students who were categorized as "short sleepers" (<6 hours/night) had an average grade point average (GPA) that was 0.5 points lower on the four-point scale than students categorized as "long sleepers" (>9 hours/night)[2], suggesting that there exists a correlation between the amount of sleep a student obtains and their overall GPA. Other studies suggest a deeper correlation between a student's GPA and their overall sleeping patterns, which includes the amount of sleep a student is getting every night. Among first-year university students, it was noted that for every hour-long delay in rise time on weekdays and weekends, students' GPA decreaed by 3.3 and 2.875 percent on the four-point scale, respectively.[3] Students with earlier bedtimes also reported having higher GPAs then those with later bedtimes, further suggesting that a student's overall GPA is affected by their sleeping patterns.

Naps are a crucial remedy that can help improve academic performance for the majority of college students who suffer from sleep deprivation. In a study conducted at Harvard University, non-sleep-deprived participants were required to perform a visual perception task. Performance deteriorated over the course of the day.[4] The study noted that this deterioration in performance was halted when participants took 60- or 90- minute naps, respectively. The study also noted that these periodic naps are most effective when it reaches both the REM and slow-sleep stages of the circadian cycle. This study suggests that naps that reach both the REM and slow-sleep stages of the circadian cycle will improve cognitive function.


College is a unique period in a young adult's life. It is a time of growth, experimentation, and exposure. It is also the first time most are living away from under the control of their parent(s) or legal guardian(s) and transitioning to a more independent lifestyle. This transition period introduces challenges that college students fail to properly manage, leading to sleep deprivation and daytime sleepiness. A wide variety of factors contribute to this, including the student's own circadian cycle and failure to manage responsibilities. Class times are scheduled with minimal regard for a student's sleeping patterns and extracurricular responsibilities, forcing students into an vicious cycle of pulling all-nighters and consuming stimulants, such as adderall and caffeine in caffeinated beverages, which leads to extreme sleep deprivation.

While naps should not be considered as a be-all end-all solution, it is a crucial process that young adults and college students alike can implement into their daily routine in order to improve their cognitive function. Improving cognitive function increases focus and attentiveness, which is helpful for college students dealing with daytime sleepiness as they go about their class schedules.


  1. Lund HG, Reider BD, Whiting AB, Prichard JR. Sleep patterns and predictors of disturbed sleep in a large population of college students. J Adolesc Health. 2010;46(2):124–132. [PubMed]
  2. Kelly WE, Kelley KE, Clanton RC. The relationship between sleep length and grade-point average among college students. Coll Stud J. 2001;35(1):84–86. [PDF]
  3. Trockel MT, Barnes MD, Egget DL. Health-related variables and academic performance among first-year college students: implications for sleep and other behaviors. J Am Coll Health. 2000;49(3):125–131. [PubMed] [PDF]
  4. Mednick S, Nakayama K, Stickgold R. Sleep-dependent learning: a nap is as good as a night. Nat Neurosci. 2003;6(7):697–698. [Google Scholar] [Link]

Hardware Used

We utilized the following pieces of hardware to create our hardware hack:

  • 1x WiFi + Bluetooth microcontroller - ESP32
  • 2x DC motors
  • 1x Duracell 9V battery
  • 1x Bipolar motor driver
  • 1x 3.3v voltage regulator
  • 4x Custom-designed 3D-printed motor fittings
  • Lots of wires
  • Soldering equipment
  • 3D printers

Software Used

Our hack could not have been possible without the following software:

  • SolidWorks
  • Arduino IDE
  • Android Studio
  • Java Android APK
  • Xcode

Final Product

You can find images of our final product on the GitHub repo linked below.

Team Members

  • Christian Aguilar, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Anna Anderson, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Elbert Nguyen, University of California, Riverside
  • Joel Sanchez, Riverside City College
  • Jim Solomon, University of California, Los Angeles

BruinAlarm 2020. Made with ❤️ by the BruinAlarm team in Los Angeles, CA.

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