The inspiration for The Alguino was from our team's interest in renewable energy sources. The Alguino was originally created to supply additional light for the bioreactor system for when the ambient light simply does not cut it. Its concept stemmed from the desire to improve upon the common bioreactors found today, which are extremely inefficient and wasteful.
What it does
There are two main components to our system. One is the light sensor that detects the amount of ambient light available and the LED strip that provides sufficient light to compensate for the lacking amount of light. The second component is another light sensor, that is connected to a motor. This sensor is located inside of the system and detects the amount of light that reaches the sensor through the microalga. When there is sufficient microalga in the system, the density of the population makes the entire colony look very dark green. This light sensor will detect when this colony has become populous enough to be harvested. When this state is detected, the motor connected to the CO2 tube lifts out of the system. Thus the colony is not oversaturated with CO2.
How we built it
We started off not knowing arduino, and just using Grove Starter Kit and learning how to use LDR sensors and simple LEDs. From there we transitioned to work with AdaFruit's neopixels. Implementing this took a lot of effort and understanding. After we had the LED set up along with the LDR sensors we had to add the servo motor. The wiring itself was pretty simple in itself, writing the code for the specific cases and functionality took a lot of tinkering and understanding. At the end it was simply implementing a simulation using a water bottle as the house for where the algae would grow. A picture of the setup is attached.
Challenges we ran into
We started off as three people not knowing a single thing about arduino however through the help of mentors and friends and the all powerful google we beat them all. A big problem we were having was to turn the LEDs off using the if else statement. No one knew what to do but we figured out the analogRead statement had to be implemented every time it was accessed and it worked. Another problem we had was running the servo motor because it would constantly rotate instead of moving a small distance. It turned out we were using a continuous instead of a standard servo motor. There were a lot of minor hiccups here and there but we were able to figure it out one way or another.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We were all really proud the first time we got the neopixel strip working, We actually jumped out of our seets in joy. But we just are really proud of actually implementing our thought into design and making a working prototype.
What we learned
We learned how to code arduino.
What's next for The Alguino
We hope to actually make a photobioreactor which will utilize this Alguino so that we can grow our own microalgae which could be synthesized into biopetroleum.