The beautiful city of San Francisco is our main source of inspiration for this product. As residents of San Francisco, we understand the city's passion to maintain as environmentally friendly as possible simply by understanding the difference between waste, recycling, and compost. We also understand that these tasks, especially composting, may be considered a hard concept to those who are new to the practice. It was then we decided to create "VermiCycle" - an indoor vermicomposting case that ensures an easy and convenient composting process.
What it does
VermiCycle is essentially an indoor vermicomposting case that ensures an easy and convenient composting process. It would be around 45.12 inches in height and 27.48 inches in width. First, the user drops their compost from the top, where a hole will be cut out (which can also be used for a detachable pot provided). From there, the compost falls onto a metal mesh panel that serves as a bed for red worms. Within two weeks, the red worms will eat the fallen compost and produce worm cast, which can serve as rich fertilizer. In the final product, we are hoping to place a humidity and temperature sensor within the case to detect when the fertilizer is ready, which would roughly be when the compost reaches 50 to 60 percent humidity. Once the fertilizer is ready, the metal mesh panel will ideally begin to shake and cause the fertilizer to sift into the third drawer, while maintaining the worms' place on the metal mesh panel. From there, the fertilizer will sift through onto the third drawer, where there will be a weight sensor present. Once the weight sensor detects at least 2 pounds, it will signal this to the green and red button found on the outside of the third drawer - green meaning that the fertilizer is ready to take out and red meaning that the fertilizer is not yet ready. Once the fertilizer is ready and taken out, users will be able to use this fertilizer to either garden outside, or right at the top in the detachable pot provided! This will provide the user a hands-free, convenient composting experience, as users do not have to go through the hassle of sifting and separating the caste and the worms, and they are automatically notified when their compost is ready. This will also allow users, especially those in big cities or schools, to compost and garden indoors! In the near future, we are also hoping to create an app to compliment the product.
How we built it
Our primary focus was to find and connect a motor that could shake the metal mesh panel. We also decided that we were only going to be developing a smaller scale version, especially emphasizing the function of the metal mesh panel. We decided to move forward with a DC Motor, a breadboard, Arduino, Arduino ID for the development platform, and c++ to code. After a few hours, we were able to get the motor shaking and decided to move forward in creating the physical small-scale structure. We used plywood, nails, a hacksaw, springs, zip-ties, and a metal mesh panel to create our small-scale structure. The plywood was made and cut to serve as our "case" and the metal mesh panel was cut and bind together by zip-ties to demonstrate how we the panel would shake. Ideally, we would only have one mesh panel that would shake, however, we couldn't get a big enough motor to successfully shake just one.
Challenges we ran into
We ran into a few challenges - first, we are a team of three, and two of us are marketing majors (with no prior hackathon experience) and the other is a computer science major, who has attended a few hackathons. We were lacking an electric engineer which caused quite a few problems. We initially wanted to use our big stepper motor since it would have shaken the mesh panel more. However, since we didn't have an electrical engineer to help set up the hardware, we decided to go with something simpler such as the Arduino, breadboard, and DC Motor. This took up a lot of time, as we had to figure out how to set up these parts, and once we did figure it out, the DC Motor wasn't strong enough to shake the entire mesh panel. From this, we had to cut the mesh panel and place one on top of the other using zip-ties to give the DC Motor something to hit, which ultimately caused the mesh panel to shake.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
Although it's not the most tech-advanced or complicated product, we are really proud that we were able to make something at all, considering that two of us are marketing majors, with no prior tech or hackathon experience, and one of us is a CS major with a good amount of experience. We worked together really well, and it was overall a really fun, relaxed experience.
What we learned
We learned that for next time, we should really try to find the people we need on our team. This would help us advance onto further steps and possibly create something more tech-advanced than what we currently have.
What's next for VermiCycle
We hope to further perfect the product technologically and fully scale the entire product. Hopefully from here, we could test market the product and possibly patent the product as well!