Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Ardweenoe – Urban Sensor Storyboard

Getting the opportunity to be introduced to Arduino is one of the main reasons why I took this class so I was pretty excited that we finally got to learn it! I’ve known about Arduino for a few years now but I was always too busy with other things (*cough* lazy) to invest my time and money into it.

A couple years ago, before I started school here, I saw this guy, Eric Maundu, operating an Arduino-powered, urban aquaponics farm in West Oakland ( And I thought it was the COOLEST thing ever! After Maundu set up his farm, he just goes into the warehouse once in a while to collect the crops and do basic maintenance. Arduino does everything else for him (checking pH levels, adding more nutrients, feeding fish, etc.). When something is off, like the water’s pH level, the system sends a status tweet to a twitter account that Maundu checks. Anyways, I was inspired to set up a solar-powered automated hydroponics garden because of Maundu, but I didn’t have the appropriate space at the time. After I graduate however, I will probably do it! Especially now that I know Arduino is not intimidating at all.

In our lab session this week, we used Arduino to make blinky LEDs and set up an ultrasonic distance sensor. I thought the “INFO 490 Arduino Intro Spring 2017” guide was super informative which was why doing something new, but complicated, was an easy task. The programming part was easy especially since I can google any syntax problems I run into. However, I would like to take some time to thoroughly understand what’s happening with the hardware/circuit board (the circuit, voltages, resistors, etc.) Below is an image of a relay sensor I was playing around with after finishing the lab.

Image 1

The image 2 below is my storyboard for a sensor set up that a neighborhood or city might be interested in. The idea is to deploy a whole bunch of sensors to monitor different factors in the local urban environment (eg. how many people are walking by, how many cars are going by and what speeds, temperature/humidity). Such data would be valuable in instances where we question whether particular, newly built developments have been successful in attracting people to the neighborhood. Ideally, you’d have to deploy sensors at critical positions before and after the development’s construction. Chicago is actually the first city to set up a urban sensor network – it’s called the Array of Things ( It’s where I got this idea from. However, the sensors in Array of Things are set up in very limited locations across the city thus far.

Image 2

I set up a quick prototype of this urban sensor (image 3); it only has two sensors — the ultrasonic distance sensor and DHT11 sensor. I frankensteined the Ping example code and a DHT script I found online. I’m not sure why but the temperature/humidity sensor registered wonky numbers every now and then. I wonder if it was my code or the hardware. I’d need to hook up a couple more sensors to complete the urban sensor (so far, I’m thinking: temperature/humidity sensor; laser emit sensor OR ultrasonic distance sensor; linear hall sensor (to measure vehicles/how fast they are going); DS-3231 RTC sensor to keep track of day and time).

Image 3

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