Here at Hackaday, we feature all kinds of projects, and we love them all the same. But some projects are a little easier to love than others, especially those that get the job done in as simple a way as possible, with nothing extra to get in the way. This completely electronics-free water gauge is a great example of doing exactly as much as needs to get done, and not a bit more.
If this project looks a bit familiar, it’s because we featured [Johan]’s previous version of “Pixel Pole” a few years back. Then as now, the goal of the build is to provide a highly visible level gauge for a large water tank that’s part of an irrigation system. The basic idea was to provide a way of switching a pump on when the tank needed filling, and off when full. [Johan] accomplished this with a magnetic float inside the tank and reed switches at the proper levels outside the tank, and then placed a series of magnetic flip dots along the path of the float to provide a visual gauge of the water level. The whole thing was pretty clever and worked well enough.
But the old metal flip dots were getting corroded, so improvements were in order. The new flip dots are 3D printed, high-visibility green on one side and black on the other. The only metal parts are the neodymium magnet pressed into a slot in the disc and a sewing pin for the axle. The housing for each flip dot is also printed, with each module snapping to the next so you can create displays of arbitrary height. The video below shows printing, assembly, and the display in action.
[Johan]’s improvements are pretty significant, especially in assembly; spot-welding was a pretty cool method to use in the first version, but printing and snapping parts together scales a lot better. And this version seems like it’ll be much happier out in the elements too. Continue reading “3D Printing Improves Passive Pixel Water Gauge”
When interfacing with the real world, there are all kinds of sensors available which will readily communicate with your microcontroller of choice. Moisture, pH, humidity, temperature, location, light, and essentially every other physical phenomenon are readily measured with a matching sensor. But if you don’t have the exact sensor you need, it’s sometimes possible to use one sensor as a proxy for another.
[Brian Wyld] needed a way to monitor the level of a remote body of water but couldn’t use a pressure or surface-level sensor, so he used a sensor typically intended for geolocation instead. This particular unit, an STM-type device with a built-in accelerometer, is attached to a rotating arm with a float at one end. As the arm pivots, the microcontroller reports its position and some software converts the change in position to a water level. It’s also paired with a LoRa radio, allowing it to operate off-grid.
Whether there is a design requirement to use an esoteric sensor to measure something more common, or a personal hardware limitation brought about by a shallow parts drawer, there’s often a workaround like this one that can accomplish the job. Whatever the situation, we do appreciate hacking sensors into other types of sensors just as much as anything else.
[Renzo Mischianti]’s friend has to keep a water tank topped up. Problem is, the tank itself is 1.5 km away, so its water level isn’t typically known. There’s no electricity available there either — whichever monitoring solution is to be used, it has to be low-power and self-sufficient. To help with that, [Renzo] is working on a self-contained automation project, with a solar-powered sensor that communicates over LoRa, and a controller that receives the water level readings and powers the water pump when needed.
[Renzo] makes sure to prototype every part using shields and modules before committing to a design, and has already wrote and tested code for both the sensor and the controller, as well as created the PCBs. He’s also making sure to document everything as he goes – in fact, there’s whole seven blog posts on this project, covering the already completed software, PCB and 3D design stages of this project.
These worklogs have plenty of explanations and pictures, and [Renzo] shows a variety of different manufacturing techniques and tricks for beginners along the way. The last blog post on 3D designing and printing the sensor enclosure was recently released, and that likely means we’ll soon see a post about this system being installed and tested!
[Renzo] has been in the “intricately documented worklogs” business for a while. We’ve covered his 3D printed PCB mill and DIY soldermask process before, and recently he was seen adding a web interface to a 3D printer missing one. As for LoRa, there’s plenty of sensors you can build – be it mailbox sensors, burglar alarms, or handheld messengers; and now you have one more project to draw inspiration and knowledge from. [Renzo] has previously done a LoRa tutorial to get you started, and we’ve made one about LoRaWAN!
Continue reading “LoRa Helps With Remote Water Tank Level Sensing”
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!
All over the world, in particular in underdeveloped countries, people die every year by the thousands because of floods. The sudden rise of water levels often come unannounced and people have no time to react before they are caught in a bad spot. Modern countries commonly have measure equipment deployed around problematic areas but they are usually expensive for third world countries to afford.
[Benne] project devises a low-cost, cloud-connected, water level measuring station to allow remote and central water level monitoring for local authorities. He hopes that by being able to monitor water levels in a more precise and timely fashion, authorities can act sooner to warn potentially affected areas and increase the chance of saving lives in case of a natural disaster.
At the moment, the project is still in an early stage as they are testing with different sensors to figure out which would work best in different scenarios. Latest version consists essentially in an Arduino UNO, an ultrasonic distance sensor, and a DHT temperature/humidity sensor to provide calibration since these characteristics affect the speed of sound. Some years ago, we covered a simple water level monitoring using a Parallax Ping sensor, but back then the IoT and the ‘cloud’ weren’t nearly as fashionable. They also tested with infrared sensors and a rotary encoder.
They made a video of the rotary encoder, which we can see below:
Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Entry: Water Level Station”
[Bob] built this simple device that can best be described as an electronic float valve. He was wasting a lot of water from overflowing water troughs and buckets around his farm. He would usually put the hose in the container, turn on the water valve and carry on with his work. By the time he remembered to come back, the area would be flooded. It’s obvious that there’s many different ways to solve a problem. For example, a simple mechanical float valve might have worked, but it’s not horse friendly and liable to get damaged soon.
The electronics is unabashedly minimal. An ATtiny85 controls a relay via a common variety NPN transistor. The relay in turn switches the solenoid valve. A push-button tells the microcontroller to start the water flowing, and when the water level gets high enough that it touches two hose clamps, the micro shuts it off again.
There’s some ghetto engineering going on here. The electronics is driven by a 9V battery, although the relay and the solenoid valve that [Bob] used are both rated for 12V. He’s not even using any sort of voltage regulation for the ATtiny, but instead dropping the voltage with a resistor divider. (We wonder about battery life in the long run.)
He built all of it on perf board and stuffed it inside a small enclosure, with two wires coming out for the level sensor and another two for the solenoid, and it seems to work. Check the video below where [Bob] walks through his build.
While some may point out the many short comings in this build, [Bob] found the one solution that works for him. Sometimes the right solution is what you’ve got on hand, and we’re glad he’s hacking away and sharing his work. And check out this wireless water level sensor that he built some time back.
Continue reading “Electronic Float Valve Keeps The Horse’s Feet Dry”
Rice is cultivated all over the world in fields known as rice paddies and it is one of the most maintenance intensive crops to grow. The rice paddy itself requires a large part of that maintenance. It is flooded with water that must be kept at a constant level, just below the height that would keep rice seedlings from growing but high enough to drown any weeds that would compete with the rice stalks for nutrients. This technique is called continuous flooding and a big part of the job of a rice farmer is to inspect the rice paddy every day to make sure the water levels are normal and there are no cracks or holes that could lead to water leakage.
This process is labor intensive, and the technology in use hasn’t changed much over the centuries. Most of the rice farmers in my area are elders with the approximate age of 65-70 years. For these hard working people a little bit of technology can make a big difference in their lives. This is the idea behind TechRice.
Continue reading “Sensor Net Makes Life Easier For Rice Farmers”