We realized that recycling was the most direct way the average person could impact the environment for the better. Unfortunately, recycling habits are not as strong as we would like them to be. In order to increase recycling--thus improving the environment, the economy, sustainable manufacturing, and limiting landfill and ocean waste--we wanted to capitalize on the competitive nature of people and make use of the opportunities to share through social networks in regards to recycling.

What it does

The TrashTalk is a smart trash and recycling bin, split into two compartments, that measures the amount of waste or recyclable material disposed in each compartment. The measurements, which are measured using force-sensitive resistors at the bottom of each compartment, are sent to an online MySQL database* and then reflected on a webpage. The measurements (and thus the webpage) are updated in real-time (upon refresh)*. We let the user know the weight of the recyclable material, the weight of the trash material, and the percent of total waste recycled.

  • Sending measurements to database is not functioning, but measurements are being read

How we built it

We connected two force-sensitive resistors to a breadboard and connected the breadboard to a arduino hooked up to a laptop. The arduino was coded to measure the current and convert it to a weight. This weight measurement was then coded to be sent to a server and MySQL database, and a webpage was developed (using HTML and PHP) to reflect the most recent measurements.

Challenges we ran into

We can't actually send the arduino measurements to the MySQL database because we lack an arduino ethernet shield and so the device can't connect to the server. However, we can measure the weight in each compartment and can spoof the numbers in the MySQL database to be reflected on the website.

Another challenge we ran into were hardware issues between the breadboard, the arduino, and connecting them to a computer. The measurements from the force-sensitive resistors were difficult to make stable and accurate.

A third challenge was to actually get PHP and MySQL to work together to write and read the database. Without any prior experience in either of those (between any of the four members), we had to use and adapt old tutorials to new syntax. Similarly, getting the PHP code into the HTML to reflect the database was a challenge.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We were able to get a functioning weight measurement in our trash can. We were able to get a working website on a local server, which correctly reads from the MySQL database. And we were able to set up and write (spoofed) data to a MySQL database. We're incredibly proud of all of these accomplishments, especially since half of the group had never attended a Hackathon before and none of the four members of the group were knowledgeable about the components of our task. We learned as we went and applied our learning immediately, which is immensely satisfying.

And the thing we are most proud of is the fact that at the end of all of this, we have a product to show off and improve upon in the future.

What we learned

We learned how to code in HTML, CSS, and PHP. We learned how to set up, manage, and use a MySQL database. We learned how to connect sensors to an arduino and write a code that would read the sensors and convert them into a measurement we understood. We also learned more about how to play off each other's strengths and backgrounds to solve the problems that we faced.

What's next for TrashTalk

Number one is connecting the arduino to an ethernet shield to send measurements from the arduino to our database. Once we're able to correctly log our measurements, we can work on the user experience--creating user accounts, a prettier website, an app, connecting it with Amazon Echo, etc. And, alongside that, we have a lot of room to improve the accuracy of the measurements and the design of the TrashTalk, so that it can one day be usable and marketable.

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