Have you ever walked from your bedroom to your kitchen and wondered "why is it so cold all of a sudden?" "Why can't my home be the temperature it says on the thermometer all throughout?" You find yourself asking. Try as you might, there just never seems to be a balance and you end up spending way too much on electricity bills and harming the environment just to target that one pesky bedroom!
The inspiration for Smart Vent comes from my own frustrations with home heating.
What it does
Smart Vent is a special vent equipped with a motor attachment such that it takes in temperature readings from the room and opens/closes the vent grilles accordingly. You can communicate with it through a phone application (modelled using Flutter) or an Alexa skill (modelled using Voiceflow).
How I built it
I used the MSP EXP430G microcontroller and Arduino code in the Energia IDE. I also used Voiceflow and Figma models for my demo.
Challenges I ran into
A large challenge for me was the solo aspect. Without a team, there's a lot less you can get done and I knew that going it. But a part of me still wanted to see if I could manage a hack all by myself, and I really surprised myself with how much I learned. Some technical challenges I ran into included:
- getting the stepper to function as I wanted it to, and figuring out a way to supply more power to it given my tiny 3.5V supply. I ended up using an external power supply.
- researching each component I was using and its corresponding datasheets and wiring information.
- dealing with mishaps with the environment I was using (Energia IDE), and resolving all the error messages it threw at me.
- dealing with fatigue and over-exertion. Solo hacks are no joke, and I really learned that this weekend.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
I am most proud of everything that I learned about different microcontrollers. I am also proud of the fact that I managed to pull through on my own and learn so much through sheer willpower (and coffee).
What I learned
I learned about how different I/O pins work, how op-amps, motors and temperature sensors are wired, why external power supplies are sometimes necessary, how to set up SSI communication between multiple micros, the different pros and cons between micros, etc.
What's next for Smart Vent
Next steps include hosting an HTTP server via my microcontroller, and integrating serial communication between two of my micros such that one is the Leader that acts based on information and the other is the Follower that provides information (ie. temperature, motor status). I also plan to create a web application and integrate Linode via the server for data storage and easy viewing of the home heating network.