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In the Air Design Challenge

8 Posts authored by: dwinhold

Hello everyone from Chrystal and Dale,


We want to thank everyone for this exciting and very big learning experience. Although we didn't complete 100% of what was planned, we will continue to work on this project until finished. For both of us it ended up being a lot more than we figured. From changing our overall plans by adding the whole biology part to the project made it harder to figure out how to do this. We did complete the centrifuge, microscope, some sensors, wireless wifi, recharging station by solar power and partial testing. We are disappointed we let down Element14, the members and all the companies backing this project. We will continue to blog about our updates until completion.


Here is the "Not so final update":


Chrystal was wanting to make a PCB cape for the BBB, so we decided on making one for developing. She searched for information and spent hours on CadSoft to create this board. She used an iron-on transfer that was printed out on a laser printer. After printing out about 7 sheets she finally got the layout correct (I turned out great). I am so proud of her accomplishments on this project, I feel her future will be great.






We got a better solar panel which gave us 11-12 Volts for recharging the batteries and running the centrifuge. I don`t have pictures of the recharge station and centrifuge as they are on a different camera and I couldn't`t download them today. I will upload missing photos shortly.




We attached a wireless keyboard to the BBB and Wifi as well as the 4.3" LCD screen. The Wifi picks up the CC3200 for transferring the sensor information. I still have to reprogram the LCD screen as I had to re-flash the BBB when a programming error I made wiped everything. I thought I bricked the BBB but luckly it wasn't that bad. I didn't like the demo LCD cape OS, it was basically just a demo and after working on it for a week I re-flashed it with Debian and had it like a regular monitor. Programming it to work like a monitor was quite a job and when I re-program it I will give details on how to do this (With lots of pictures for others interested)









The microscope works very well, unfortunately the one Chrystal made wasn't powerful enough to view bacteria. She got only 100X power and had issues on focusing it. I am real proud of how well she thought out the whole project with the biology idea involved. The new microscope that we bought made a huge difference, Chrystal uses it often to check out how dirty the water is. The centrifuge works good, a professional one would be perfect but the one we made is good for now. We have to have it running for 40 minutes for separation of particles. Each tube has to be weighed so each one is equal to keep it balanced.








This is the first half of the report as I need to retrieve the rest of the photos for the sensor demo and centrifuge information.


Again we apologize for not completing what we set out to do, we won't stop until we complete this as it is so important to us. Thank you all again for your support and backing of this project, it has changed our lives and the way we see the planet.


Dale and Chrystal Winhold

Hi everyone,


I will be giving a detailed update this weekend, I just wanted to say that part of my Element14 order was canceled by them due to parts being discontinued. They never informed me, only when I called to find out about the delay is when they let me know. They wouldn't allow me to substitute the item for another and said only the one who submitted the order could do this. They were pleasant to me but I feel that I should have been notified as soon as possible. The item missing was worth over $150 and am wondering if they realized the issue it has caused me. I will still complete the project but it will be a lot more difficult and maybe costly.


Sorry for the short rant,


Dale Winhold

Hi everyone!!


This is Chrystal writing this post on our progress. Sorry about the delay in getting the update posted, the holidays distracted us a bit, but now that Christmas is over and everything has slowed down (except school) we have got a fair bit done on our project.


So here is the long update (With photos I took):


I have the microscope working!! I have it at about 80X, it isn't up to the power we need yet, but it works great. I took apart some old cameras to salvage their lenses (Don't want to waste) and attached them to a web camera. So far it is just cardboard and duct tape (My dad is right, duct tape is for everything) but I got some good photos from it. To run the web cam we (actually Dad) programmed the Beaglebone Black to run a program called "Cheese". I looked it up on-line to see what would work for running the camera and came across this program (I also liked the name!!).


Below are some pictures I took through the microscope with a description of what your seeing.


First is a magnified LED light. You can see the close-up of the inside quite clearly!!



Next is a picture of cork.



While I was looking for things to magnify I found this tiny ball of solder on my dad's workbench (His bench is a mess and he complains about my room)



This last photo is of a piece of construction paper. I wanted to take a picture of my dad's workspace (To show how messy it is) but he said NO!!




The microscope is still work in progress but will be complete soon.


Next is the centrifuge, we ended up building our own as we are still waiting for parts. With time going by fast we decided to build one so we can complete on time. This was driving my dad crazy, such an easy machine but how to make it safe and balanced. I found a small fan that had one of the fins broken (Salvage parts, no wasting). So we took it apart and got the motor and speed control, added a hard plastic storage container and 4 vials. Attached is a picture (Without safety cover so you can see).



I took the picture with the web cam attached to the Beaglebone (No lenses to magnify). The centrifuge spins fast (We need to calculate speed yet) and is very well balanced. There is no wobble and the vials are very secure. We don't turn it on without the safety cover attached. This weekend we will test how well and long it takes to separate particles to look at. There will be lots of photos and a video of this part of the project working.


It is getting late so we will update more this weekend.


Chrystal and Dale Winhold

Hello to everyone!!


So, my update last week didn't get posted due to a drastic change in our project. With the focus on clean air, water and soil sensing, I was creating sensor boards for.. well sensors. This was starting to work well until my daughter (Chrystal/Project Partner) asked how does the sensor tell if the water is ok to drink? I explained that we test for PPM, PH and other sensor tests we add. Chrystal, being a perfectionist and aspiring biologist said that my tests wouldn't give accurate enough results. She asked how I figure that it could, with so little information from a sensor? (I started to see a lecture coming). She added, if we are to make a field tester that can be used and trusted we have to do it right. So in my great wisdom I told her to tell me how to do this right. (I say my great wisdom because she was right and I let her tell me.. And I listened!! I'm very glad I did.)


Same but different:


Our change is now more biology directed. We are still using the sensors but adding in more biology for better results. This won't add too much more space to our project (Well, it will add 50% more) but the accuracy will be worth it. We are making a digital microscope and (Believe it or not) a small 4 vial centrifuge (Yes, centrifuge). As Chrystal pointed out to me, this is the most accurate way to find bacteria in the water or soil. The findings in the sample after the centrifuge can be checked against a database for safety. This redirection for accuracy is more important to our project as we require more information then what a sensor could give.


Our centrifuge is being made from a cordless rotary tool with a plastic molded vial holder attached. This is the only inexpensive and high speed way I could come up with as we require at least 18,000 rpm to reach the required G-force for separation of particles. (Pictures to come)


Our digital microscope is made from lenses and a web cam. We require 150-400x to see the small bacteria, viruses are a different story which we won't get near, as that is far beyond our knowledge. We may look into this later if time allows, I would rather leave that for more experienced virologists.


That is our update for now, Chrystal will be writing the next report later this week,


Dale and Chrystal Winhold

Hi everyone,


I wanted to get a quick update of where we are at. As most my know, my daughter is working with me on this project (See last blog post). We have received most everything from Element14 (Thank you so much). We have downloaded and registered Cadsoft Eagle Pro and are working hard to design the PCB's for our sensors (Thank you Cadsoft for this incredable software).


I am currently working on the PCB design for the sensors as well programming the Beaglebone Black. I will update our progress this weekend with pictures and experimental script to operate the GPIO's and TI boards. I also have a TI EZ-430 watch I want to integrate in all this as well. Chrystal, my daughter, is beside me learning as much as possible as giving great ideas as we move forward (I am learning as much as she is). We still need to activate our Sierra Wireless account which will be this weekend and give details about our plans for the cloud.


Thank you to everyone for your generous support and to the Element14 community,

Dale and Chrystal Winhold

Portable Field Tester part 3, making a solar power supply:


This part will be written by my daughter Chrystal, she is looking after making the power supply for our field tester (With my guidance).


Hi everyone, my name is Chrystal and I am 14 years old. My dad has helped me with this part by explaining diodes, resistors and how electricity works. I will explain each picture in detail as they are posted.



They allow electricity to pass only one way. So the power coming from our solar panel to the chargeable batteries have a diode soldered in (Silver ring end of diode towards the batteries). This stops the charged batteries from forcing electricity back up the wire to the solar panels.




The power supply I made is only for testing as my solar panel I have is not strong enough to power the project. As shown below we are only getting 2V from our small panel. We added a volt meter (I, with Dad's help, built it from a kit) with a push button to display the voltage. The volt meter is powered by a 9 volt battery (This is a waste of energy and won't be battery run in the final project), the push button only displays the volts for the length of time pressed (Saves some energy from being wasted).






The 150 Ohm resistor is to being the 9 volt battery down to the 5 volts required to run the volt meter. The resistor isn't exactly what we should have used as it drops us down to 4.6 volts but still works good (I should have used a 130 OHM resistor).


Recharger Wires:

So the picture above (Mess of wires) I will explain how this works. The green panel behind the battery is the backside of the solar panel. There are 2 red wires and 2 black wires attached, 1 red and black to the battery charger and the other 2 go to the volt meter. The positive red wire that goes to the charger has the diode. It is attached to the positive side of the charger. The negative wire is attached to the negative on the charger.


Volt Meter Wires:

The other red and black wires go to the volt meter test end. I wired it wrong the first 3 times, I hooked it up to the power side which didn't work, then reverse to the test side (Dad finally explained what I did wrong... I learned a lot from this mistake). The positive rom the battery with the resistor attached went to the positive on the volt meter and negative to negative. Oh, I almost forgot to say I put a push button on/off switch in the positive wire of the volt meter.




Working solar energy:

After it was all together I tested it. The panel was put in the light and I pressed the button...... It worked, 2 volts shown!!! I did it, except..... I require around 9 volts to run everything (Beaglebone, TI's, sensors.... ) My solar panel is to small for the energy I require to collect.





The power supply worked great but I require a bigger or more panels to reach the required volts. Dad just informed me he had ordered the panels we required so when they arrive I will make this run our Field Tester.


More to come,


Chrystal W.



The flow chart below is my overall idea of how this will work. (Just the start)




Here is the list of Items I have ordered from Element14 with the budget generously provided:







Learning curve


The idea of the device was given to me by my 14 year old daughter Chrystal. She will be greatly involved in the project and learning as much about electronics and programming as possible. Her love for the environment started when she was quite young, her desire is to become a wildlife or environmental biologist. Chrystal has invented an alarm clock that never needs to be set and automates the bedroom.

We will be working together to make this a reality.



First Step:


We have received the parcel the other day, seemed like an early Christmas. We opened it together and were very surprised. We received a Beaglebone Black, MSP 430, CC3200 (Thanks to Texas Instruments) and 4 boxes of Power Inductors (Thanks to Würth Elektronik). We can't thank enough to all those involved in making this challenge possible.

Now with our order placed with Element14, we are starting with experimenting on the Beaglebone Black and solar energy for the power supply. Chrystal will be working on the solar supply while I work on the programming. This is only the start of a long journey of learning and bonding. The next blog will also have a part from my daughter in her words for what she is learning.

Chrystal has also mentioned about having a hydrogen energy cell for power as well. This will be decided later on as I feel we have our hands full already, but I won't say no if she feels it can be incorporated in the design.


To be continued,

Dale and Chrystal

Hello everyone,


My goal for this road-test is to create a Portable Environment Field Tester. This can be used by outdoor enthusiasts, researchers, campers, hunters or anyone who spends time outdoors. The chances of getting lost is not very great, but running out of water, getting bad weather, being in an area with bad air quality or falling in contaminated mud or dirt is greater.


With the Environment Field Tester, you will be able to:


    • Test water before you drink it to make sure it is safe to drink.

    • Be alerted of bad weather from the basic weather station integrated in the tester.

    • If you are in an area where there could be forest fires or a decrease in air quality (caves for example) this will alert you of the danger.

    • If you fall into mud or dirt, you can test the area to make sure there is no harmful contaminates that you may have come in contact with.

    • The Environment Field Tester will be portable and run on solar power with battery back-up. The battery back-up will be rechargeable during the day from the solar power source. This will make the dependence of batteries a lot less which will help save the environment from more pollution.


The Portable Environment Field Tester will use the supplied hardware and software as follows:


    • Beaglebone Black – This will be the brains of the system, it will process all the information gathered from the sensors for the results.

    • CC3200 Launchpad – This will be used (Via Wi-Fi smart phone connection) for weather updates and send other results to a smart phone app for viewing.

    • MSP430FR5969 Launchpad – This will be used to update information to the display. (Texas Instruments 430BOOST-SHARP96 display which will be part of the purchasing made)

    • Power Inductor Kits from Wurth Electronics: Using the inductors is perfect for the Portable Environment Field Tester as they are made to withstand the harsh outdoor environment.

    • Cadsoft Pro License – With the Cadsoft Pro I will be able to make any PCB’s required.

    • Access to Sierra Wireless' AirVantage M2M Cloud Platform – You will be able to save all data you collected for future needs via the cloud

    • Advanced development tools from the Eclipse Foundation – Perfect for the phone app development

    • €40 / $50 towards Wurth Electronics's PCB services – Perfect for the detailed PCB’s required

    • Passive components, connectors, switches, and LEDs – These will be put to very good use for assembly and final touches

    • €375 / $500 budget for additional parts and prototyping – With all the extra sensors and electronics required to complete the project the budget will be put to great use. For this road test the use of purchased parts will try to be kept to brands of the generous suppliers. Some of the extra parts required will be:

      • Water sensors

      • Air quality sensors

      • Ground quality testers

      • LCD displays

      • Rechargeable batteries

      • Solar panels

I will have a blog that will be updated with all progress made while creating my road test. This will include pictures and video of each step. I want to thank all the suppliers, Element14 for everything they have done to make this challenge possible, also to all the members who have dedicated themselves to helping others understand what we don't.


Dale Winhold