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Solar Powered Yard Gadgets


I'd hate to let the Going Green  theme go to waste without multiple entries, so I created a (solar powered) video streamer for my chicken coop as a little weekend project





The idea is to use a Pi Zero with Pi NoIR and a set of IR LEDs which can be enabled/disabled on demand. An external wifi dongle ensures better connectivity from the back of the garden. Using a solar panel and battery pack, the circuit can remain powered and automatically charge during the day.


The hardware required for this project is:


* Solar panel with charging circuit and battery

* Raspberry Pi Zero

* Wifi dongle for extra range

* Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera v2Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera v2

* Official Pi Zero case with camera lid

* Pi-Supply Bright Pi


The gallery below serves as a build log for this project


{gallery} My Gallery Title













On the software side of the project, I went for the all-in solution provided by MotionEyeOS, a streaming OS compatible with the Raspberry Pi.


After downloading the software image for my device, I flashed it onto an SD card using Etcher. I copied my "wpa_supplicant.conf" file to the SD card, before ejecting and inserting it in the Pi.

Upon first boot, the Pi automatically connected to the wireless network and set up the camera. I honestly didn't expect it to be this easy


Browsing to the web interface, various options are available to configure frame rate, resolution, camera name, etc ...

Screen Shot 2017-07-29 at 19.13.22.png


MotionEye also allows the creation of "action buttons". Just what I need in order to enable/disable the BrightPi's IR LEDs.


In the "/data/etc" folder, I created two files called "light_on_1" and "light_off_1".


[root@meye-1d01a2ec etc]# pwd


[root@meye-1d01a2ec etc]# ls -l light_o*
-rwxrwxrwx    1 root     root            83 Jul 29 20:02 light_off_1*
-rwxrwxrwx    1 root     root            83 Jul 29 20:02 light_on_1*


Inside those files, a short bit of code to control the Bright Pi via I2C.


[root@meye-1d01a2ec etc]# cat light_off_1
#!/usr/bin/env python

from os import system

system("i2cset -y 1 0x70 0x00 0x00")


[root@meye-1d01a2ec etc]# cat light_on_1
#!/usr/bin/env python

from os import system

system("i2cset -y 1 0x70 0x00 0xa5")


MotionEye detects these scripts, and adds the button overlays to the video streams.

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 14.07.13.png




Long duration testing will have to determine if the 10W solar panel is sufficient to keep the battery charged, but some measures to lower the power consumption can already be taken.


Power Saving


Every bit helps when using battery powered applications. And though the Pi Zero isn't the most efficient choice, some tricks can be applied to lower its power consumption.


The first easy change, is to disable the onboard LED by editing the "/boot/config.txt" file and appending the following:


# Disable the ACT LED on the Pi Zero.


The same can be done for the camera's LED, though that option exists within MotionEye, making it even easier:

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 14.39.30.png


As the Pi is running without monitor attached, the HDMI output can be disabled. This is done by adding a cronjob using "crontab -e" to execute the command upon reboot:


# Disable HDMI
@reboot /usr/bin/tvservice -o


Disabling any services that are not used may help as well. By default, MotionEye, enables things like Samba and FTP. These can be disabled via the GUI:

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 14.48.50.png

It's worth going through all options and disabling anything you don't require. The streaming settings can be adapted as well, as the camera doesn't necessarily need to stream all the time, or at full resolution.




I also performed a test in total darkness, with the IR LEDs. They aren't super powerful, but it's enough to keep an eye on the chickens



IOT Irrigation valve

Posted by idanre1 Jul 20, 2017


I must mention project14 is awesome!

It gets me started doing project I have always wanted to do, but didn't find the time.

For some reason because it is done in a community way, I find myself more stimulated doing nice projects


In my garden, I have a dummy irrigation system. I have two timer electric valves, one for the flowers and one for the trees which require different watering times.

They both work every day for particular time and don't know to adjust themselves to the weather.


I always wanted to do the following project:

  • Shut down the water on a rainy day
  • Extra feed on the summer heat
  • Do it automatically using the weather forecast
    • Today I just open/close the master valve manually


I am living in a remote place in my country, everybody around me are farmers.

Shipping electrical components to my address can take more than 2 months (e.g. TIP120 took 2.5months to arrive)

Luckily buying agricultural equipment is a piece of cake.


My neighbor is working in one of these companies called

They profession this equipment and I have access to their datasheets using the website.


These two solenoids have enough electric specifications to understand how to operate them.

I place to use H-Bridge "SparkFun Motor Driver - Dual TB6612FNG (1A)"

I know others may like the LN298 flavors H-bridge but I this this one is better in power dissipation and efficiency.


From the factory, I ordered the DC solenoid with valve on it -

Will update more after receiving the piece next week.


Update 1

First this to do is describe in high level the design.


The arch goes like this:

I happen to be the proud owner of dragonboard 410C

Its Qualcomm's Raspberry pie solution.

I quite like it, since it can do heavy lifting and comes with 4 cores and 1GB RAM.

I will use it to do the IOT part (web server, cron, etc...)

The arduino will do the real time processing (en/dis the solenoid).


  • Main valve will be in the garden, I have there 3 wire cable towards the roof (in the walls).
  • The arduino will be on the roof and using a motor driver will pulse on/off the valve.
    • Arduino will use the electricity cable to signal the motor (cable is not occupied in current moment)
  • Motor driver is TB6612FNG http:// which can go up to 15V (more than enough)
  • Arduino will have a BT module to receive orders when to on/off
  • DB410c will do IOT and have integrated BT/WIFI.


Design details

Arduino sketch template

The following sketch have communication implementation, I didn't have the time to also turn on/off motor driver.

Also, adding motor logic is straight forward in the ON/OFF elsif

Arduino code in github:


I also did the db410c script (perl) to sample weather from the internet and communicate it to arduino.

  • $url can control hometown
  • $cache is for debug


IOT side template code

Perl code in github:


I hope my next update will be when I will receive the valve.


Update 2: Receiving the valve


Yesterday I have received the valve, till now I have prepared all of the SW for both the Dragonboard and the Arduino (will update github sometime).

Again, the Dragonboard will run perl to forecast weather, send command to the Arduino using it's internal BT module.

Arduino will be armed with BT module to SW serial port, and a motor driver in-order to turn the valve both ways


Breadboard Video


This is the circuit


This is where I plan to put the smart valve (see video for more details)


This is the main valve

These are the pipe connections:



Next stage

I have left to solder it all in a nice way, store it in a water resistant box and put it in the roof.

I plan to send the signal to the solenoid from the roof, it means ~9-12V over about 8 meter cable.

I hope the added resistance of the cable (this is a regular 220V cable, so resistance is not negligible...) will not mess the signal too much and things will go easy.


Update 3: Assembly

I have wired the valve to the water pipe and to the electricity cable, Hooked up the arduino and motor driver on the roof and managed to communicate the arduino using the BT from the db410c.

db410c is running Debian linux so I can SSH the db410c using any wireless device around the house.

Below is the video of the assembly


GND is shared by all modules

VCC is currently 5V

VMOT is 13.5V


Final notes

I have been trying to create the power supply to the arduino from the same wall-wart.

I had an excelent discussion about it Power arduino using lm338k.

Thanks gecoz, peteroakes and jw0752 who helped me understand how to make a descent power delivery to the module.

Eventually I found a 9V nominal wall-wart around the house that will suite my solenoid needs better (Thanks again Peter and Fabio for your help)


The power circuit looks like that (Arduino is actually the VCC line you will see in the next photo):

Final Photos

You can see I drawed two lines with a marker to better find the power lines.

Vm is where the 9V is connected directly to the motor driver power to change the solenoid state.

I put a 100uF directly to vM and 1uF directly to VCC just for making sure...

There is also a zenner 3v6 and a resistor between arduino TX and BT RX for reducing the 5V from the arduino to the 3v BT module.

On the arduino RX and BT TX I didn't put anything because 3V is considered V_h in the arduino - so signal integrity is kept.


Here you can see eveything composed in the box

(eventually I used a different wall-wart, not shown in picture)

Also you can see I made a tiny hole for the BT module to pop out, or nothing will pass in the air.

I will put transparent plastic cover to prevent flying bugs to come in, but still the BT connection will last.

The box also come with nice places to put screws, I used it to screw things in a tidy way.


Everything from behind


I think that concludes the project.

I had a great time, and also learned allot, especially on power delivery.

And I don't have to bother every day turn on/off the irrigation system




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project14_logodoc.pngMany people use their time outdoors to get away from technology for a while; this month's Project14 theme, Going Green, challenges you to use awesome technology FOR your outdoors space, whether it's your backyard garden, front lawn, or even a hanging planter, for those apartment dwellers like me. What types of things do you like to do outdoors, and how can tech be used to make your outdoor experiences more memorable?  How can you do the things you love in the summer while using technology to enrich the experience? Check out these past element14 projects and get inspired to begin your own Project14 submission!


Arduino-Based Automatic Irrigation System for Your Garden



Pieter Blok had a classic problem: how to take care of his plants while he was on vacation. And if you're from element14, the answer there isn't to buy a friend dinner and ask them; it's to use your skills - with some help from Arduino - to keep those azaleas healthy. The system can be monitored with an iOS app, tracks the moisture level in the plants, and it even plots that status over time. The household fern never had it so good.


WiFi-controlled Plant Watering and Monitoring System



Because there are usually different routes you can take to get to the same ultimate solution, let's check out another method for caring for your plants remotely! luislabmo  based his on the SparkFun Blynk board, which reads sensors that monitor sunlight, soil moisture, and the level of water in a reservoir. SparkFun's Blynk app provides the control from your mobile device. Check out Luis's detailed video for step-by-step instructions on this excellent project, for which he even 3D printed a nifty enclosure.


IoT Tomato Greenhouse



Apparently, at one point in history some people thought that eating raw tomatoes was dangerous? That is crazy, because tomatoes are both good for you and absolutely delicious. janisalnis  is a fellow tomato enthusiast, and he won the  Internet of the Backyard Design Challenge with his automated tomato greenhouse, based on the Texas Instruments SimpleLink Wi-Fi Launchpad. Armed with the knowledge of the ideal temperature for tomato growth, Alnis set up IoT monitoring and control of his greenhouse, with some very tasty results that you can see above along with all the excellent technical detail.


IoT Grass Monitor




When exactly your grass has gotten too long and needs to be cut is sort of a matter of taste, but that doesn't mean you can't go all Internet of Things on this issue. BigG  sure did, as he designed a system to monitor his grass powered by a TI Launchpad and to track the data. He also addresses the pitfalls you can run into with an outdoors project, with simple and practical solutions.


Raspberry Pi Plant Health Camera



A person with a proper green thumb can take one quick look at their plants and know how they're doing, but some of us need help wherever we can get it. Luckily, gpolder  combined his expertise and the Raspberry Pi 8MP camera to create a system for monitoring the health of his plants. Through clever filtering of the camera images you can determine if vegetation is likely to healthy or sparse, so you won't have to be experienced in the garden to know when your help is needed.




These are just a few excellent examples of outdoorsy element14 projects from the past; use the search bar above to find more, and get started on your own for the Going Green competition!









Step 1: Log in or register on element14, it's easy and free.

Step 2: Post in the comments section below to begin a discussion on your idea. Videos, pictures and text are all welcomed forms of submission.

Step 3: Submit a blog post of your progress on your project by the end of the month.  You are free to submit as many blog entries as you like until the beginning of the next theme.


You have until August 14th, 12:00 AM CDT to enter.


Be sure to include video proof of your project!