Final Project for Better Sleep

It’s that time of year again, and students around the world are scrambling (or have already scrambled) to finish their final projects for the semester. And, while studying for finals prevents many from sleeping an adequate amount, [Julia] and [Nick] are seeking to maximize “what little sleep the [Electrical and Computer Engineering] major allows” them by using their final project to measure sleep quality.

To produce a metric for sleep quality, [Julia] and [Nick] set out to measure various sleep-related activities, specifically heart rate, motion and breath frequency. During the night, an Arduino Nano mounted to a glove collects data from the various sensors mounted to the user, all the while beaming the data to a stationary PIC for analysis and storage. When the user awakes, they can view their sleep report on a TFT display at the PIC base station. Ideally, users would use this data to test different habits in order to get the best nights sleep possible.

Interestingly, the group chose to implement their own heart rate sensor. With an IR transmitter, IR phototransistor and an OP amp, the group illuminates user’s fingers and measure reflection to detect heartbeats. This works because the amount of IR reflected from the user’s finger changes with blood pressure and blood oxygen level, which also happen to change when the heart is beating. There were some bumps along the road when it came to the heartbeat sensor (the need to use a finger instead of the wrist forced them to use a glove instead of a wristband), but we think it’s super cool and totally worth it. In addition to heart rate, motion is measured by an accelerometer and breath is measured by a flex sensor wrapped around the user’s chest.

With all of their data beamed back by a pair of nRF24L01s, the PIC computes the sleep “chaos” which is exactly what it sounds like: it describes just how chaotic the user slept by looking for acyclic and sudden movement. Using this metric, combined with information from breathing and heart rate, the PIC computes a percentage for good sleep where 100% is a great night and 0% means you might have been just as well off pulling an all-nighter. And, to top it all off, the PIC saves your data to an SD card for easy after-the-fact review.

The commented code that powers the project can be found here along with a parts list in their project write-up.

This device assumes that sleeping is the issue, but if waking up if your problem, we’ve already got you covered, aggressive alarm clock style. For those already on top of their sleep, you might want some help with lucid dreaming.

Video of the project explained by [Julia] and [Nick] after the break.

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Building A Drone That (Almost) Follows You Home

There’s a great deal of research happening around the topic of autonomous vehicles of all creeds and colours. [Ryan] decided this was an interesting field, and took on an autonomous drone as his final project at Cornell University.

The main idea was to create a drone that could autonomously follow a target which provided GPS data for the drone to follow. [Ryan] planned to implement this by having a smartphone provide GPS coordinates to the drone over WiFi, allowing the drone to track the user.

As this was  a university project, he had to take a very carefully considered approach to the build. Given likely constraints on both money and time, he identified that the crux of the project was to develop the autonomous part of the drone, not the drone itself. Thus, off-the-shelf parts were selected to swiftly put together a drone platform that would serve as a test bed for his autonomous brain.

The write up is in-depth and shares all the gritty details of getting the various subsystems of the drone talking together. He also shares issues that were faced with altitude control – without any sensors to determine altitude, it wasn’t possible to keep the drone at a level height. This unfortunately complicated things and meant that he didn’t get to complete the drone’s following algorithm. Such roadblocks are highly common in time-limited university projects, though their educational value cannot be overstated. Overall, while the project may not have met its final goals, it was obviously an excellent learning experience, and one which has taught him plenty about working with drones and the related electronics.

For another take on autonomous flight, check out this high-speed AI racing drone.

BrainTap, gaming with arthritis in mind

As a final project in their 3rd year of the University of Technology Sydney, [James] and a few classmates put together this interesting game. Called BrainTap, it is described as a game targeted at the baby boomers focusing on fine motor skills and memory.

The game plays similar to the common game “simon”. The box lights up a series of LEDs in a pattern, then you have to repeat the pattern back with the corresponding buttons in the glove. There is vibration feedback in the glove as well as the lights and sounds you see in the video. Though they do mention arthritis in their title, we don’t think our grandmas with arthritis would enjoy those hand motions much. We, however, might spend hours doing this instead of more important things.

We particularly like the visual construction of the game box. The case was designed in CAD, 3d printed, then sanded smooth and painted with automotive paint to get that perfect finish. Great job guys.

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OBD-II TrckrX: data logging in a BMW E36 M3

[Bruce Land] sent in this cool final project for ECE 4760 at Cornell University. Dubbed TrckrX, it is an OBD-II tracking and data logging system built into a BMW E36 M3. The car in question is being used in some auotocross competitions. The driver wanted instant access to some data as well as a log of everything for later analysis. The unit gives a real time display of vehicle speed, coolant temp, and RPM. G-force and timestamps are stored on the SD card.

We think this is a very cool idea, and could be quite useful in some instances. The real time display of speed and RPM seem a bit peculiar as the car’s speedometer and tachometer are more appropriately placed for real time information. However, we completely understand that this was a class project and this person may not have wanted to replace their dash cluster with a new readout.

Perspective tracking with only a web cam

[Johhny chung Lee], eat your heart out. Check out what these guys are doing with face tracking and immersive 3d as their final project in class. They’re using a singe camera and an FPGA to produce the demo you see in the video. Facial tracking is done by skin color, so that might have some issues in some environments, but being able to have perspective shift with you, without rigging up some more hardware is fantastic.

We realize that this is completely different that what [Johnny] is doing. We love [Johnny]’s work and think it is ground breaking to be able to pull this stuff off with a cheap game controller. We just couldn’t help but draw the parallel from the end result.

[thanks Bruce]

Snake Bot

sb head (Custom)

[Husstech] wrote in to share his Snake Bot with us. Initially inspired by this post about SickSack, a snake bot, he set out to build his own version. While the concept and even the design aren’t particularly new or groundbreaking, he is very thorough in his documentation. Since this was a project for school, the PDF of his project includes research, schematics, cost breakdowns, and results. We really like the camera and head design, it looks very insect like. You can see a video of the final version being shown off after the break, or you can see an earlier version that is decidedly more phallic.

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