Breathe Easy With This Online Dust Sensor Box

It’s an unfortunate reality that for many of us, our air isn’t nearly as clean as we’d like. From smog to wildfires, there’s a whole lot of stuff in the air that we’d just as soon like to keep out of our lungs. But in order to combat this enemy, you first need to understand it. That means figuring out just what’s in the air you breathe, and how much of it. That’s where devices like the Dust Box from [The IoT GURU] can come in handy.

Inside the 3D printed enclosure is a Wemos D1 Mini ESP8266 development board, sitting on a custom breakout PCB. This board gives you some easy expandability to add your own sensors and hardware, though in this particular configuration, the Dust Box is using the BME280 sensor for general environmental monitoring and the SDS011 laser particle sensor to determine what’s in the air. Just plug it into a convenient USB power source, make sure it’s connected to the WiFi, and off it goes.

But where does all that lovely data end up? That’s up to you, but in this case, the [The IoT GURU] is pushing everything out to a web interface that allows the user to view yearly, monthly, and weekly historical data for each of the parameters the Dust Box can check. This is probably a bit more granular than most of us need, but it’s a good example of what’s possible should you need that much information.

For a similar project that allows you to take your sensors a bit farther off the beaten path, checkout FieldKit, which was recently crowned winner of the 2019 Hackaday Prize.

Stackable Open Source 3D Printer Enclosure

One of the unfortunate realities of desktop FDM 3D printing is that environmental factors such as ambient temperature and humidity can have a big impact on your results. Even with the exact same settings, a part that printed beautifully in the summer can warp right off the bed during the winter months. The solution is a temperature-controlled enclosure, but that can be a daunting project without some guidance. Luckily, [Jay Doscher] has spent the last few months designing a very impressive enclosure that he’s released to the community as open source.

While we’ve seen no shortage of DIY printer enclosures over the years, they tend to be fairly lightweight. But that’s not the case here. Obviously not wanting to leave anything to chance, [Jay] designed this enclosure with 2020 extrusion and aluminum side panels. You could probably sit on the thing with no ill-effects, which is good, since he also designed the enclosure to be stackable should your print farm need to expand vertically.

Of course, there’s more to this enclosure than just an aluminum box. It’s packed with features like an integrated Raspberry Pi for running Octoprint, internal and external environmental monitoring with the Adafruit SHT31-D, and a Logitech Brio 4K video camera to watch the action. While not currently implemented, [Jay] says he’s also working on an internal fire suppression system and a fan controller system which will circulate air inside the enclosure should things get a little too toasty.

The enclosure has been designed around the ever-popular Prusa i3 MK3/S, even going so far as to relocate the printer’s display to the outside so you don’t have to open the door to fiddle with the settings. But adapting it to whatever rig you happen to be running shouldn’t be a problem. Though admittedly, perhaps not as easy as adjusting an enclosure made out of metal shelving.

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A Printed Case For Your ESP Environmental Sensors

We’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: rolling your own hardware solution is ridiculously easy these days. If you want to make a network attached environmental sensor, you wire a DHT11 up to an ESP8266 and you’re done. Time to move onto the software. In fact, it can take longer to come up with some kind of suitable enclosure for your hardware project than it does to assemble the thing.

Which is why [Pixel Hawk] has come up with this elegant 3D printed enclosure for the ESP8266 and ESP32. It’s designed to hold the microcontroller in the bottom compartment, while the environmental sensor (either the DHT11 or DHT22) is mounted to the top so it’s exposed to the outside. The case snap fits together so you don’t have to worry about gluing it, and there’s even an opening so you can keep the USB cable plugged in.

In the notes for the design, he mentions that in testing it was determined that the heat of the ESP itself can skew the temperature readings. So he recommends putting the microcontroller to sleep whenever possible, and keeping reads short so the enclosure doesn’t have time to heat up. He’s also created an alternate version of the case with more openings which should help combat this issue if you need to keep the chip awake.

If you’re looking for a complete solution, [Pixel Hawk] has included the source code he personally used to get his ESP32 sensor talking to Blynk, but you certainly don’t have to go that route if you don’t want to. There’s no shortage of existing projects out there that will help you get started with whole-house environmental monitoring. Our very own [Elliot Williams] happens to be partial to MQTT when he wants to get all his gadgets to play nice.

An Open Source Toolbox For Studying The Earth

Fully understanding the planet’s complex ecosystem takes data, and lots of it. Unfortunately, the ability to collect detailed environmental data on a large scale with any sort of accuracy has traditionally been something that only the government or well-funded institutions have been capable of. Building and deploying the sensors necessary to cover large areas or remote locations simply wasn’t something the individual could realistically do.

But by leveraging modular hardware and open source software, the FieldKit from [Conservify] hopes to even the scales a bit. With an array of standardized sensors and easy to use software tools for collating and visualizing collected data, the project aims to empower independent environmental monitoring systems that can scale from a handful of nodes up to several hundred.

We’ve all seen more than enough DIY environmental monitoring projects to know there’s nothing particularly new or exciting about stuffing a few cheap sensors into a plastic container. But putting high quality, reliable hardware into large scale production is another thing entirely. Especially when your target user may have limited technical knowledge.

That’s why FieldKit is designed around a common backplane with modular sensors and add-on boards that can be plugged in and easily configured with a smartphone application. Whether the node is going to be mounted to a pole and powered by a solar panel, or attached to a buoy, most of the hardware stays the same.

While the electronics and the software interface are naturally the stars of the show here, we can’t help but also be impressed with the enclosure for the FieldKit. It seems a minor thing, but as we’ve seen from the projects that have come our way over the years, finding a box to put your hardware in that’s affordable, adaptable, and weatherproof is often a considerable challenge in itself. Rather than using something commercially available, [Conservify] has designed their own enclosure that’s inspired by the heavy duty (but prohibitively expensive) cases from Pelican. It features a replaceable panel on one side where the user can pop whatever holes will be necessary to wire up their particular project without compromising the case itself; just get a new panel when you want to reconfigure the FieldKit for some other task. Prototypes have already been 3D printed, and the team will be moving to injection molded versions in the near future.

As a finalist in the 2019 Hackaday Prize, FieldKit exemplifies everything we’re looking for this year: a clear forward progression from prototype to final hardware, an obvious need for mass production, and the documentation necessary to show why this project is deserving of the $125,000 grand prize up for grabs.

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24 Hours Of Temperature Data At A Glance

In an era where we can see the current temperature with just a glance at our smartphones, the classic “Time and Temp” gadget sitting on the desk doesn’t have quite the same appeal. The modern weather fanatic demands more data, which is where this gorgeous full-day temperature display from [Richard] comes in.

The display, built inside of a picture frame, shows the temperature recorded for every hour of the day. If the LED next to the corresponding hour is lit that means the value displayed is from the current day, otherwise it’s a holdover from the previous day’s recordings. This not only makes sure all 24 LED displays have something to show, but gives you an idea of where the temperature might be trending for the rest of the day. Naturally there’s also a display of the instantaneous temperature (indoor and outdoor), plus [Richard] even threw in the current wind speed for good measure.

In the video after the break, [Richard] briefly walks us through the construction of his “Thermo Logger”, which reveals among other things that the beautiful panel art is nothing more exotic than a printed piece of A4 paper. The video also features a 3D model of the inside of the device which appears to have been created through photogrammetry; perhaps one of the coolest pieces of project documentation we’ve ever seen. We’ll just throw this out there: if you want to ensure that your latest build makes the front page of Hackaday, pop off that back panel and make some decent quality 3D scans.

Given the final result, it should come as no surprise to find that this isn’t the first incredible weather display that [Richard] has built. We previously covered another weather monitoring creation of his that needed two seperate display devices to adequately display all the data it was collecting.

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The Final Days Of The Fire Lookouts

For more than a century, the United States Forest Service has employed men and women to monitor vast swaths of wilderness from isolated lookout towers. Armed with little more than a pair of binoculars and a map, these lookouts served as an early warning system for combating wildfires. Eventually the towers would be equipped with radios, and later still a cellular or satellite connection to the Internet, but beyond that the job of fire lookout has changed little since the 1900s.

Like the lighthouse keepers of old, there’s a certain romance surrounding the fire lookouts. Sitting alone in their tower, the majority of their time is spent looking at a horizon they’ve memorized over years or even decades, carefully watching for the slightest whiff of smoke. The isolation has been a prison for some, and a paradise for others. Author Jack Kerouac spent the summer of 1956 in a lookout tower on Desolation Peak in Washington state, an experience which he wrote about in several works including Desolation Angels.

But slowly, in a change completely imperceptible to the public, the era of the fire lookouts has been drawing to a close. As technology improves, the idea of perching a human on top of a tall tower for months on end seems increasingly archaic. Many are staunchly opposed to the idea of automation replacing human workers, but in the case of the fire lookouts, it’s difficult to argue against it. Computer vision offers an unwavering eye that can detect even the smallest column of smoke amongst acres of woodland, while drones equipped with GPS can pinpoint its location and make on-site assessments without risk to human life.

At one point, the United States Forest Service operated more than 5,000 permanent fire lookout towers, but today that number has dwindled into the hundreds. As this niche job fades even farther into obscurity, let’s take a look at the fire lookout’s most famous tool, and the modern technology poised to replace it.

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Particle Mesh Powers The Internet Of Fans

With the winter months not far off, [Ben Brooks] was looking for a way to help circulate the heat from his wood-burning fireplace throughout his home. Rather than go with a commercial solution, he decided to come up with his own automated air circulation system powered by the mesh networking capabilities of one of his favorite pieces of tech, the Particle Photon.

Particle Xeon remote sensor

The idea here is pretty simple: use a remote temperature sensor to tell a fan located behind the fireplace when it’s time to kick on and start sharing some of that warmth with the rest of the house. But as usual, it ended up being a bit trickier than anticipated. For one, when [Ben] took a close look at the Vornado 660 fan he planned on using, he realized that its speed controller was “smart” enough that simply putting a relay on the AC line wouldn’t allow him to turn it on and off.

So he had to do some reverse engineering to figure out how the Sonix SN8P2501B microcontroller on the board was controlling the fan, and then wire the Photon directly to the pins on the chip that corresponded with the various physical controls. This allows the Photon to not only “push” the buttons to trigger the different speeds, but also read the controls to see if a human is trying to override the current setting.

For the remote side [Ben] is using a Particle Xenon, which is specifically designed for Internet of Things endpoints and sensor applications. Combined with a TMP36 temperature sensor and 3.7 V 500 mAh battery, this allowed him to easily put together a wireless remote thermometer that will publish the current temperature to the Photon’s mesh network at regular intervals.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Particle Photon used to augment an unassuming piece of hardware. We’ve previously seen one get grafted into a coffee maker, and if you can believe it, somebody even stuck one inside an umbrella to create a mobile weather station.