As Earth's health declines, ours does too, and we will witness the coinciding effects unless drastic measures our taken. However, this does not downplay the role humans have: take care of the environment and take care of ourselves. Although some people could easily turn on the weather channel or google "pollution today in [city of your choice]", pollution monitoring can be difficult for others who may not have the proper funds. The PPM provides a cheap alternative, and its usefulness may be extended into the future if more restrictions on the prevention of pollutants are not made soon. The creation of PPM stems from the desire to ensure safety for all humans as humanity receives whatever nature throws at us, and we've always been told that preparation is key.
What it does
Prioritizing human health, the Portable Pollution Monitor uses various sensors to track environmental factors that can pose danger to our health. The device takes periodic readings of the current C02, total volatile organic compounds, humidity and light levels in the surrounding environment, and one may view their personal measurements stored within a database to access near real-time and/or long-term statistics. Based on the recorded levels, one may choose what precautions to take to benefit their health. The PPM is easy to carry on the go, but its portability makes stationary installment easy as well. This can be hung on the exterior of a home or carried - whichever works best for the product's buyer!
How I built it
The Portable Pollution Monitor prototype is an Arduino Uno mounted towards the center of a ~6 inch breadboard. With wire running to and fro, three sensors connect to the breadboard: a moisture sensor, light sensor, and air quality sensor. The information is potentially stored in a datebase to share with the user of the product.
Challenges I ran into
Hardware accessibility became an issue. With a team member owning two moisture and humidity sensors, we assumed things would progress fairly smoothly, but many hours were wasted while trying to diagnose the problem of why neither sensor would work properly. Instead, the soil and moisture sensor plays the role of what would ideally be one of the previously mentioned sensors. At one point, we were going to substitute the light sensor for a UV sensor, detecting harmful sunlight rather than simply ambient light, but we did not have an I2C bus to resolve the problem of connecting multiple devices to the Arduino's I2C ports. More knowledge on this would have been helpful, but we pushed forward! Unfortunately, we were unable to create a database for the product. This prohibits us from efficiently displaying data in an orderly manner other than the Arduino IDE's simple print out's within the code itself. The PHP database portion of the project's completion was unrealistic in the end, but our skills with the software were tested anyway.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
Originally, we planned to make a land analyzer using an assortment of other sensors to track erosion on a plot of land, but as lack of necessary hardware became a bigger issue, the PPM idea came into play. We are very proud of our ability to change our end goal/product as smoothly as we did because giving up on project completion became an easy option at one point. We are proud to have continued and bend our original plan to become not only something helpful but a product for people who require better health precautions.
What I learned
Learning and practicing electronics and getting the opportunity to be hands-on with programming and a physical outcome is the most exciting part of this. With one team member having a background in Physics and Computer Science and the other having a background in Computer Systems Engineering, the second member was able to teach the first what they knew about electronics, and they both got to expand on their knowledge from their through research. This created excitement between the two and caused them to better focus on a common goal.
What's next for Portable Pollution Monitor (PPM)
The PPM could be improved by using the proper sensors as listed in the "Challenges We Ran Into" section. Hardware usage needs to be practiced more in order to create a better foundation for the application and connecting of various sensor not covered in major-related courses. In the future, the PPM should be capable of displaying, storing and calculating various data from the measurements gathered from each sensor. It should be able to compare the sensors' results in order to signify healthy or unhealthy air ratings based on a combination of results.