Automatic trough filler makes sure the animals have water

It has been a hot hot summer for many parts of the US. The heat has been dangerous at times and making sure the livestock has the water they need is incredibly important. [Maddox] recently upgraded the automation on their water troughs which will help with the process. Sure, they still have to check on the animals, but this will ensure there’s plenty to drink in between those visits, and that a malfunction doesn’t waste precious water.

There has always been some level of automation here, but it relied on float valves which were frequently malfunctioning. This project seeks to get rid of the float value and use solenoid valves like those used in irrigation. These solenoids can run from a 9V battery and offer quite a bit more reliability than the mechanical vales. There is still a float sensor which measures the water level, filling up the trough when needed.

An MSP430 Launchpad was used for the prototype, from which a PCB was designed. Since this needs to be weather-proof a water tight enclosure was sourced. The company that makes the enclosure also provides DXF templates which [Maddox] used to establish the size and outline of the PCB.

High speed photography controller built to catch water droplets

One high-speed photography controller to rule them all. If you’re looking to photograph droplets of water splashing on a still reservoir this is the ticket. But if you’re not, it still offers an incredible amount of flexibility for other high-speed needs. Inside you’ll find an Arduino Mega, which has plenty of room to bend to your will.

[Michael Ross] is the man behind this box. He wanted a system that did it all; timings, droplet control, camera shutter, etc. What you can’t see in the image above is the interface panel on the back of this enclosure (this shot shows the top of the box). The video after the break will give you a look at the overall setup. It has ports to control two different light sources, detectors to snap the images using an infrared sensor or via sound (we’re thinking bullet photography), and four ports to control solenoid valves.

He produced a mammoth PDF tutorial which will guide even the biggest noob through the entire build process. Find it at his site linked above.

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Charting the efficiencies of boiling water

Water takes a lot of energy to heat up. If you’d like evidence of this, simply jump into a 50° F swimming pool on Memorial Day. Despite the difficulty of heating water, that simple act accounts for a lot of industrial processes. From cooking a steak to running a nuclear reactor, there isn’t much that doesn’t involve heating water.

[Tom Murphy], Physics prof at UCSD decided to test out exactly how efficiently he could boil water. Armed with a gas stove, electric kettle, microwave, and a neat laser pointer/photodiode setup on his gas meter to measure consumption, he calculated exactly how much energy he was using to make a cup of tea.

The final numbers from [Tom]’s experiment revealed that a gas stove – using a pot with and without a lid on large and small burners – was about 20% efficient. A gas-powered hot water heater was much better at 55% efficiency, but the microwave and electric kettle had a miserable efficiencies of around 15 and 25%, respectively. There is a reason for the terrible inefficiency of using electricity to heat water; if only the power from the wall is considered, the electric kettle put 80% of energy consumed directly into the water. Because the electricity has to come from somewhere, usually a fossil-fueled power plant that operates at around 30% efficiency, the electric kettle method of turning dinosaurs into hot water is only about 25% efficient.

The take-home from this is there’s a lot of power being wasted every time you run a bath, make some coffee, or wash the dishes. We would all do better by decreasing how much energy we use, much like [Tom]’s efforts in using 5 times less power than his neighbor. Awesome job, [Tom].

Floating sensor networks

These cool looking little bots are part of a fleet of floating water sensors built by The Lagrangian Sensor Systems Laboratory (LSSL) at UC Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories (LBNL) and the California Department of Water Resources.

In an emergency such as a levee break, flood, or spill, they can be deployed to gather information in a way that is completely impossible with stationary sensors. These 17″ tall bots can steer with the help of their twin props and communicate water quality information back to the base via cellular communication and short wave radio. They describe the resulting data as being like a “google traffic map” showing speed, depth, and contamination of the water.

There’s a ton of detail on their site, including breakdowns of how the software and hardware are put together. There’s even a bit of the evolution of the hardware showing the abandoned previous models.

Automatic Water for Your Pets

If you have livestock or outdoor pets you know how important it is to keep them watered, but also know that sometimes you are not around when the trough runs dry. [Buddy] solves this inconvenience with a trip to the hardware store and some creativity.

The automatic water filler is made from some PVC pipe, brass fittings, a faucet supply and a toilet float valve. The PVC is arranged into a hook shape, a fitting is put on one end for a standard garden hose. On the other end a bit of adapting is needed to convert the PVC into a faucet supply, where the toilet valve is hooked up. Now whenever your thirsty beasts get the water too low, the float lowers and tops off the watering hole with fresh H20. That sure beats running out there every day to make sure, especially with summer just around the bend.

The Water Calligraphy Tricycle

Many westerners visiting or living in China may observe the art of “water calligraphy” and some may even try to imitate it. However, media artist [Nicholas Hanna] decided to take a totally new approach and make his own water painting machine.

Someone less creative would have devised some imitation of a human, but [Nicholas] decided to totally rethink the process in the form of a tricycle.  Using 16 PC-controlled water solenoids, this tricycle is turned into a sort of moving dot matrix printer. It doesn’t have the same sort of grace that the traditional Chinese art does, but it’s quite a bit faster, so if you want to get your message out, this might have some practical applications.

The post doesn’t go into the electronics, but the video after the break includes some close-ups and video of [Nicholas] assembling the device. If you happen to be in china, his tricycle is part of an event for “Beijing Design Week” at the Northern Electric Relay Factory until October 3rd.

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Machine precisely, methodically arranges water droplets


While some projects we feature are meant to perform a useful function or make life easier, others such as this art installation by [Pe Lang] are far less functional, but amazing nonetheless.

Taking a cue from CNC-style machines, his creation is an experiment in falling objects and the properties of water. The machine methodically moves along a small 370 x 330 mm plate that is constructed out of a special omniphobic material. A syringe full of water travels along with the machine’s arm, depositing a single 3.3 mm wide drop of water on the board every few seconds as it moves along. Due to the surface tension of the water, each droplet forms a near perfect sphere on the plate without disturbing any of its neighbors.

Once the machine is finished, it leaves the matrix of water droplets to evaporate, after which the machine starts its careful process once again. It really is amazing, regardless of the fact that it doesn’t exactly “do anything”.

Be sure to check out the video below to see the exhibit in action.

[via Make]

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