Winners Of Hackaday’s Data Loggin’ Contest: Bluetooth Gardening, Counting Cups, And Predicting Rainfall

The votes for Hackaday’s Data Loggin’ Contest have been received, saved to SD, pushed out to MQTT, and graphed. Now it’s time to announce the three projects that made the most sense out of life’s random data and earned themselves a $100 gift certificate for Tindie, the Internet’s foremost purveyor of fine hand-crafted artisanal electronics.

First up, and winner of the Data Wizard¬†category, is this whole-garden soil moisture monitor by [Joseph Eoff]. You might not realize it from the picture at the top of the page, but lurking underneath the mulch of that lovely garden is more than 20 Bluetooth soil sensors arranged in a grid pattern. All of the data is sucked up by a series of solar powered ESP32 access points, and ultimately ends up on a Raspberry Pi by way of MQTT. Here, custom Python software generates a heatmap that indicates possible trouble spots in the garden. With its easy to understand visualization of what’s happening under the surface, this project perfectly captured the spirit of the category.

Next up is the Nespresso Shield from [Steadman]. This clever gadget literally listens for the telltale sounds of the eponymous coffee maker doing its business to not only estimate your daily consumption, but warn you when the machine is running low on water. The clever non-invasive method of pulling data from a household appliance made this a strong entry for the Creative Genius category.

Last but certainly not least is this comprehensive IoT weather station that uses machine learning to predict rainfall. With crops and livestock at risk from sudden intense storms, [kutluhan_aktar] envisions this device as an early warning for farmers. The documentation on this project, from setting up the GPRS-enabled ESP8266 weather station to creating the web interface and importing all the data into TensorFlow, is absolutely phenomenal. This project serves as a invaluable framework for similar DIY weather detection and prediction systems, which made it the perfect choice for our World Changer category.

There may have only been three winners this time around, but the legendary skill and creativity of the Hackaday community was on full display for this contest. A browse through the rest of the submissions is highly recommended, and we’re sure the creators would love to hear your feedback and suggestions in the comments.

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Exploring Custom Firmware On Xiaomi Thermometers

If we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that hackers love to know what the temperature is. Seriously. A stroll through the archives here at Hackaday uncovers an overwhelming number of bespoke gadgets for recording, displaying, and transmitting the current conditions. From outdoor weather stations to an ESP8266 with a DHT11 soldered on, there’s no shortage of prior art should you want to start collecting your own environmental data.

Now obviously we’re big fans of DIY it here, that’s sort of the point of the whole website. But there’s no denying that it can be hard to compete with the economies of scale, especially when dealing with imported goods. Even the most experienced hardware hacker would have trouble building something like the Xiaomi LYWSD03MMC. For as little as $4 USD each, you’ve got a slick energy efficient sensor with an integrated LCD that broadcasts the current temperature and humidity over Bluetooth Low Energy.

You could probably build your own…but why?

It’s pretty much the ideal platform for setting up a whole-house environmental monitoring system except for one detail: it’s designed to work as part of Xiaomi’s home automation system, and not necessarily the hacked-together setups that folks like us have going on at home. But that was before Aaron Christophel got on the case.

We first brought news of his ambitious project to create an open source firmware for these low-cost sensors last month, and unsurprisingly it generated quite a bit of interest. After all, folks taking existing pieces of hardware, making them better, and sharing how they did it with the world is a core tenet of this community.

Believing that such a well crafted projected deserved a second look, and frankly because I wanted to start monitoring the conditions in my own home on the cheap, I decided to order a pack of Xiaomi thermometers and dive in.

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Vintage Gauges Turned Classy Weather Display

It’s always good to see old hardware saved from the junk pile, especially when the end result is as impressive as this analog gauge weather display put together by [Build Comics]. It ended up being a truly multidisciplinary project, combing not only restoration work and modern microcontroller trickery, but a dash of woodworking for good measure.

Naturally, the gauges themselves are the real stars of the show. They started out with rusted internals and broken glass, but parts from a sacrificial donor and some TLC from [Build Comics] got them back in working order. We especially like the effort that was put into making the scale markings look authentic, with scans of the originals modified in GIMP to indicate temperature and humidity while retaining the period appropriate details.

To drive the 1940s era indicators, [Build Comics] is using an Arduino Nano and a DHT22 sensor that can detect temperature and humidity. A couple of trimmer pots are included for fine tuning the gauges, and everything is mounted to a small scrap of perfboard hidden inside of the custom-made pine enclosure.

This is hardly the first time we’ve seen analog gauges hooked up to modern electronics, but most of the projects are just that: modern. While the end look might be somewhat polarizing, we think maintaining the hardware’s classic style was the right call.

3D Printed ESP8266 TV Is A Blast From The Past

We’ve often said that one of the best applications for desktop 3D printing is the production of custom enclosures, but you certainly aren’t limited to an extruded version of the classic Radio Shack project box. As [Marcello Milone] shows with this very clever retro TV enclosure for the Wemos D1 Mini, 3D printing means your imagination is the only limit when it comes to how you want to package up your latest creation.

As nice as the printed parts are, it’s the little details that really sell the look. [Marcello] has bent a piece of copper wire into a circle to make a faux antenna with vintage flair, and while the ESP is connecting to the WiFi network, it even shows an old school TV test pattern on its 1.8″ TFT display.

In the video after the break you can see the device go through its startup routine, and while displaying the Hackaday Wrencher at boot might not be strictly on theme…we’ll allow it.

While you could certainly use this little enclosure for whatever ESP project you had in mind, [Marcello] says he’s building a distributed environmental monitoring network using HTU21D temperature and humidity sensors. It sounds like he’s still working on the software side of things though, so hopefully he posts an update when the functionality is fully realized.

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The Challenges Of Monitoring Water Streams And Surviving Mother Nature

Small waterways give life in the form of drinking and irrigation water, but can also be very destructive when flooding occurs. In the US, monitoring of these waterways is done by mainly by the USGS, with accurate but expensive monitoring stations. This means that there is a limit to how many monitoring stations can be deployed. In an effort to come up with a more cost-efficient monitoring solution, [Rohan Menon] and [Ian Vernooy] created Aquametric, a simple water level, temperature and conductivity measuring station.

The device is built around a Particle Electron that features a STM32 microcontroller and a 3G modem. An automotive ultrasonic sensors measures water level, a thermistor measures temperature and a pair of parallel aluminum plates are used to measure conductivity. All the data from the prototype is output to a live dashboard. The biggest challenges for the system came with field deployment.

The great outdoors can be rather merciless with our ideas and electronic devices. [Rohan] and [Ian] did some tests with LoRa, but quickly found that the terrain severely limited the effective range. Power was another challenge, first testing with a solar panel and lithium battery. This proved unreliable especially at temperatures near freezing, so they decided to use 18 AA batteries instead and optimized power usage.

The mounting system is still an ongoing challenge. A metal pole driven into the riverbed at a wider part ended up bent (probably from ice sheets) and covered in debris to the point that it affected water level readings. They then moved to a narrower and shallower section in the hopes of avoiding debris, but the rocky bottom prevented them from effectively driving in a pole. So the mounted the pole on a steel plate which was then packet with rock to keep it in place. This too failed when it tipped over from rising water levels, submerging the entire sensor unit. Surprisingly it survived with only a little moisture getting inside.

For the 2020 Hackaday Prize, Field Ready and Conservation X Labs have issued challenges that need require some careful consideration and testing to build things that can survive the real world. So go forth and hack!

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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