Intellibuoy Keeps Track Of The Water

With world oceans ranging in cleanliness from pretty nasty to OMG, we need to get a handle on what exactly is going on. High School students from Hackensack, NJ built the Intellibuoy, a floating water quality sensor. The buoy has an anemometer and digital rain gauge up top, as well as a LED beacon to comply with maritime regulations.

Flotation is provided by a framework of sealed 3/4″ and 3″ PVC pipes that look strong enough to protect the electronics from a casual boat-bump. High above the water (under ideal conditions) there is the waterproof control box, packing two Arduino UNOs which listen to the sensors. A turbidity sensor measures how much silt is in the water; the other sensors measure Ph, dissolved oxygen, and temperature. The sensor pod is suspended inside a double ring of PVC for maximum protection. Each ‘Duino also has a SD card shield that stores the data of the respective sensors.

Without beating up on the team too much, we think their idea of retrieving sensor data by cut-and-pasting it from the serial monitor via a plugged-in laptop is probably not the best solution. Easy data retrieval has got to be super important, and if the project were to be implemented over a wide scale, they’d want a solution a non-technical person could implement — a “disk drive” maybe?

We love how sealed PVC has become the go-to method for protecting electronics against moisture, as well as simply for flotation — this submersible ROV we previously posted is a good example.

14 thoughts on “Intellibuoy Keeps Track Of The Water

  1. That looks like a great project.
    Obviously it’s intended for deployment for a specified time before recovery data extraction battery replacement etc.

    I noticed breadboard in there – I’m realy keen to see how the breadboard connections hold up in the hostile environment of the ocean.

    There is so much they are about to learn when that bouy is deployed…

    I realy love projects from students like this where ideas and reality meet head on.

    I can see numerous places this will most likely suffer failure but it’s cheap it’s simple and they will learn a lot from the experience. But they have already overcome the biggest hurdle- they’ve had an idea and they have turned it into reality.

    I’m looking forward to see how it works out.

  2. Needs better waterproofing, particularly around the toggle switches. Also, what happens if it flips over? How to deal with internal moisture? Could maybe use some desiccants.

    Physical movement resistance also needs to be improved.

  3. Impressive sensor array. Excellent effort for High School, would have expected this from college level. Ecology oriented engineering as well, very timely. The pilot model is a success.

    Reporter is completely right that it’s a bit rude to beat up on them for the interim solution of data cut and paste, but then the reporter dives further to his own crush depth suggesting a mechanical drive solution no less! They’ll make you wait till it’s finished next time, or better yet, have the reporter take the same class with the same time and design by committee constraints! They succeeded, it’s a prototype that became proof of concept.

    1. SD card using the serial failback? They would survive most of the conditions without too much trouble. My primary worries are: the brittleness of PVC, the moisture resistance of their user interface portion, the mechanical resilience of their breadboard in rough seas, the fasteners into the inner ring of PVC, along with the mechanical restraints on the wiring. But since it’s meant for small bodies of water, and local rivers, I suppose that it should be okay for a couple of months worth of deployment at least. I’m mostly just off put by the lackluster cap over their comms ports.

    2. The words ‘ “disk drive” ‘ in quote marks are a sign for me, that no actual mechanical drive is meant. Probably some removable storage (USB-stick, SD card, etc…). A contact less interface (optical or inductive) would be the best solution. But you do not really need to do cut-and-paste. You can pipe the data to a file or use a terminal program and use something like the old X-modem or Z-modem protocols.

  4. Nice – the PVC tubing should be fine for the rivers and limited time (looks like a class research project – so I will give them the proto boards and such) – the video mentions limited time deployed so the plug and upload data is fine by me. the only time i thing the PVC would be an issue is if someone ran into the buoy at high speed

    the tie wraps could be improved for the bottom fastening and they will probably need a weight to keep it right side up – combine with an anchor

    I would give them a good grade – hope they stay interested

    good luck to them and the others –

    easy to throw stones – but some of my first designs had “issues” I guess – but we learned and the next designs were way better

  5. SD cards provide plenty of room for data logging.
    As for the rain gauge, in brackish water a salinity sensor could pull double duty. There are more than a few arduino builds out there for monitoring buoys. I feel like 2 arduinos is excessive for their needs, I’ve seen more done with a single mcu.

    Pet peeve it’s pH not Ph.

  6. It’s kind of funny how they went through so much trouble (relatively speaking, anyway) to waterproof the USB ports, and yet have three standard toggles on the outside without so much as boots on them.

    Is it really necessary to have any of this on the outside of the box? Couldn’t you keep the USB ports and power switches inside, and just seal it up right before you deploy? It’s just a couple of screws on the top.

  7. Some folks built a really fantastic ‘floater’ that wandered around the Pacific for more than a year, beaming back it’s location once an hour via WSPR. A different version that also uses APRS could, in theory beam sensor data back via ISS since it passes over regularly.

    Someday, when I get time. I’ll build it for my wife’s 6th grade science class. Then we have to find a cooperative ship captain who will allow it to be tossed overboard someplace interesting. :)

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