Are you concerned only with your own career or do you use your powers for the greater good? A story from "Friends of 10 Mile Creek and Little Seneca" in Maryland shows how embedded developers give back to the community.
A group of volunteers from Montgomery County in Maryland turned to EasyPIC v7 and mikroBasic to deploy a water monitoring system at the local Ten Mile Creek. A tributary to the Potomac river (and ultimately, Chesapeake bay), the Ten Mile creek serves as a backup water source for 4.3 million Washington D.C. residents. The waterway is a natural beauty, but is being threatened by pollution.
To draw attention to the problem, Friends of 10 Mile Creek will make a data logging system that monitors temperature, pH and height levels of the water, with provisions for additional sensors to be placed in the future. The mainboard of the proposed solution is an EasyPIC v7 enclosed into a watertight, rodent-proof housing.
According to Tom Leedy, Vice President of the organization, the obvious advantage of basing the field controller on an EasyPIC v7 is that they can "develop code on a second development board and simply transfer it to the creek-side unit on the 80-pin MCU card"
The sensor readings would be stored into an SD card, and if resources permit, they will also establish a 900MHz data link which would transmit data once per day. Tom provides more technical details:
The measurement sensors will consist of a pressure sensing unit (Druck/GE PDCR 1830) to measure the height of the creek by measuring the pressure on the sensor at the bottom of a small well in the creek bed. The pH of the creek will be measured with an Atlas Scientific Industrial Probe using a very high-input impedance amplifier (LMP7721).
Water and air temperatures (along with air humidity and atmospheric pressure) will be made with a small MEMS sensor (MS8607-02BA01). With a small pressure and humidity sensor internal to the creek-side electronics enclosure, we can detect leaks in a pressurized electronics/sensor package. The analog signals will be converted to SPI-compatible bus signals with a A/D converter (ADS1256). Power will come from a solar array in conjunction with 12 Vdc glass-mat batteries. I will be evaluating a charger for the system that should provide about one Ampere for one hour, three times per day.
I plan on fabricating the creek-side sensor package from standard 2" thick-wall, Schedule 80, plumbing parts.
Aware that environmental problems threaten waterways everywhere in the world, Friends of Ten Mile Creek point out that the project can be potentially useful beyond the local level. To that end, they are planning to make the entire hardware & software solution for the water monitoring project freely available.
The software, Tom tells us, is intentionally written in mikroBasic, to make it more accessible to High Schoolers.
Friends of Ten Mile Creek applied for a grant from the Maryland Environmental Trust to help finance the project. So far, the creek was monitored by the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection and the Audubon Naturalist Society. However, they checked the water quality only few times a year. This wasn't enough, because the water quality can oscillate daily, hourly even. A typical situation occurs after a summer storm. Rainwater drains into the creek from nearby heated asphalt roads. The warm water causes a sharp rise in the creek's temperature, shocking its animal and plant life.
"I have decided not to wait for the grant", says Tom, . . . "we'll just do it. The time for this project, and its potentially lost data, is too valuable to waste."
We agree. Time is the most valuable asset. Not a good idea to waste it on waiting for someone else to deliver. Take action.