This is my Introductory blog post for this Design Challenge1 Meter of Pi

version 1.7


I've decided to come up with a system that will help grow Spirulina Algae in a self contained space. I will not be growing it in a spaceship for now, but in my basement. My basement has a changing climate of it's own from the rest of the house .I'm sure it is not the most ideal space to grow Spirulina but I'm sure outer space is a lot less ideal. With this design, I will try to create the ideal environment to grow spirulina.


Spirulina Algae is a superfood with all the nutrition value to sustain human beings on a long journey.


To compile with the Challenge requirement to use 10 blogs,  my plan is to use this blog post as a table of contents and will add the next 10 blogs as links..


The system should be self contained and aid in the successful growth of the Algae. I have never tried to grow Spirulina Algae before, but I plan to get information on how and on kits available from the internet. So far it doesn’t look hard and any manual maintenance such as the temperature, oxidization ,PH ,Light exposure, status of the growth, etc., will be monitored by the MCU system kit for this challenge.

To fulfill the challenge requirement to fit into a space of 1 cubic meter on a spaceship, My plan is to include fish tanks for growing, that will fit into this space along with a backup tank for each growing tank. The prototype will include a 25 gallon fish tank with a smaller backup tank to hold the growing solution. along with some space to Contain the MCU to control the environment in both tanks. This footprint will take approximately one quarter of space in a 1 cementer cube. This will allow for 4 identical prototype systems in a 1 centimeter cube.


Although growing algae is simple, there are a lot of things that need to be measured and maintained during the growing process.

Like for example,

    • the temperature of the waters
    • the oxidization in the water
    • the amount of light exposure
    • PH levels
    • Other things that will need to be checked during the growing process.
    • A check that can be done to tell if the Algae is ready.


My plan is to check these with the sensors supplied in the kit.  I will need to figure out how to attach the sensors on the Sensor hats to device like Pumps, lights, etc.


A challenge which I have not thought through yet, is how zero gravity will affect the proposed design and how to test it. It might be easier to provide a solution for providing nourishment to humans during a time of a hunger crisis. which I will be designing for in this challenge.


10 Blogs

Blog Naming Format

In order to keep track of the BLOGS I use a the following naming convention to title my blogs related to this challenge.

Blog# <n> EAS  - <topic>

Blog Version numbering

Blogs will be marked with a version number to indicate changes over time. The naming convention for version number will be (<major#>. <minor#>)

for example !.1 is the fist edition of the blog and 1.2 is the 2nd and so on.

The major number will not change during this challenge and will be used for a later Design cycle, if ever.

Project Plan

Blog# 1 EAS - Steps to Growing Spirulina Algae

  • This blog shows the entire process to grow Spirulina.
  • They are several product cycles involved in getting a good product:
    • a proper growing  solution mix.
    • A monitored Growing process
    • Having a solution mix Backup
    • Product Readiness and Harvesting the Spirulina
  • I will be using this growing process to manufacture Spirulina for this Challenge.

Blog# 2 EAS - System Concepts

  • This Blog will address the concepts and define the major componets of the system.
  • The problems  that the system will deal with are described.

Blog# 3 EAS - Research Instrumentation

  • The instrumentation that is needed to quantify the problems will be researched and selected
  • The Blog will include my research on Instrumentation needed, other than the Challenger kit, to aid in growing of Spirulina in the Growing Housing (GH) Unit.

Blog# 4 EAS - Research and Unboxing of the challenge kit

  • This Blog will be documenting the components of the challenge kit. along with unboxing the components of the kit, I am documenting the steps I have taken to experiment with the 2 hats attached to a Raspberry Pi 4 2GB.

Blog# 5 EAS - Research Temperature Sensor - DS18B20

  • In order to maintain a consistent temperature of the water in the growing tank, a waterproof temperature Sensor will be used.
  • The 1-Wire DS18B20 is a very common sensor that is used with the Raspberry Pi.

Blog# 6 EAS - System Designs -- Block diagram

  • This blog will summarized a high level design on how the mechanical and electrical components will be interconnected,

Blog# 7 System Designs -- Software Design

  • This blog will describe all the software and programming used in the system.
    • Class Diagrams
    • Software Workflows
    • Telemetry Data Repository
      • How the controllers talk to the DB server and Windows Server.
    • Alerts
    • Monitoring
    • Controller Units
      • CU1 (Enviro Hat)
      • CU2 (Automation Hat)

Blog# 8 EAS - System Build

  • This blog will describe the build of putting all the components together.
    • Electronics build
    • Mechanical Build,
    • Software programming
    • List Additional Material needed for the project showing links to sourced.
      • Tank, pump, Etc.

Blog# 9 EAS - Developmental Unit Testing

  • Unit Test done on each component of the system
    • Electrical Systems testing,
    • Software System testing,
    • Mechanical Systems testing

Blog# 10 System Application Tests

  • The system will be used to assist in the growth of edible algae.
  • The real acid test will be,  if the growth of the algae fails at any point, then  I will have to readjust the configuration and start another growth Cycle.
  • Generate Reports of Ideal growing times.

Blog# 11  EAS - Conclusions and Enhancements for Future Systems

  • Conclusions that were reach during this project.
  • Enhancements that could be added to make the growing of spirulina more hands free and automated.



  • I have participated successfully in several element14 challenges and applied to a Road Test.
  • I do not have an electronics background, but I am interested in IOT.
      • My background is more on the software side, with a bachelors of Science in Computer Science from Boston University.
      • I Graduated from Boston University in 1980 and had been working as a Software Engineer since then until I retired in 2018.
      • I am now a hobbyist maker, experimenting with IOT.
      • This will be a challenge for me but I’ve been learning a lot from other challenges on this blog.
  • I Have entered two challenges for the azure sphere MCU. From those I acquired a free Azure sphere Dev kit,  a click relay , and a raspberry PI 4.
  • I have been playing with the Raspberry PI 4 using python. I Connected a heart rate sensor to the raspberry pi and created a circuit from the companies website.

Summary & Notes

  • I have never used Hats on the Raspberry PI 4 before. It will be a great opportunity for me to start experimenting with them.
  • This will be a real challenge for me, but I've found these challenges to be a learning experience.
  • Looking forward to your comments.