Turtle Tank Light Sensor: My First IoT Project

The Internet of Things is becoming a big thing now. Recently, I had the opportunity to start getting involved in IoT and the whole “maker” movement.

My local chapter of Women Who Code, along with SparkFun and SpotX, hosted a women’s hardware hackathon. Thinking, “why not?”, and curious about this whole IoT and hardware stuff, I decided to go and check it out.

The hardware hackathon was a one day event, and was where I met Crystal Gannon (twitter:@BattyGrrl7) and Laura Imbler (twitter:@TheArtOfLevity) for the first time. Little did I know that that day would change my life forever. After this hackathon, I went on to participate in another hackathon with Crystal, where we won first place and we’re still doing IoT stuff together. (That’s a bit of foreshadowing there, which I will expound on more in future blog posts.) But this blog post is about this hackathon, so let me get back to that.

The theme for this hackathon was “Winter”. Basically, what hardware project could each team build, in less than 4 hours (not counting lunch and time for presentations) that uses sensors and controllers and is related to winter somehow?

Faced with this challenge, our team took stock of our skill sets. Crystal is a web developer, Laura is a Java developer with an electrical engineering degree, and I’m a mobile developer with all-around programming skills. It looked like we had a well-rounded team. Next: what would our project be about?

Well, I have a couple of turtles at home. Actually, they are my husband’s turtles, although I became their stepmom when we got married. One challenge with raising turtles is making sure that they have the proper amount of light in order to stay healthy (they need the right amount of UV, etc.). There is a small shelf by the window, but it’s not big enough to hold the turtle tank. So, the tank is located away from the window, and they have an artificial light bulb that provides UV, located above the tank. The ideal amount of light would be the amount that corresponds with the seasons. During the winter, they normally get less light because the days are shorter, but they also are less active in the winter anyway, so more light is not needed. During the warmer months, they need more light because the days are longer and they are more active. So what’s the solution? How about putting a light sensor in the window, that turns on the bulb above the turtle tank when the sun rises and turns off the bulb when the sun sets, thereby ensuring that the turtles always get the right amount of light for every season?

How did we do? Considering what little time we had to work, we did great! We got a light sensor working to turn on / off an LED, to simulate the lamp above the turtle tank, as you could see from this video:

Crystal also put together an awesome web site, demonstrating our future plans of someday displaying the light sensor data in real time. The idea would be that you can check to see how much light the turtles are getting on your mobile website or mobile app, in real time, once this project is complete. Due to lack of time, we couldn’t get the light sensor data to display in real time on the website, but we were able to show the data in a console in the Arduino IDE. And guess what? We won 3rd place for our project! I guess our solution to meet the needs of turtles, our dear family members, really touched the hearts of the judges.

Afterwards, there were lots of selfies on Twitter. I might have been responsible for some of them. ;). Everyone had a great time at the hackathon. Thanks to my team members, Crystal and Laura, for working with me. And thank you so much to Women Who Code, SparkFun, and SpotX, for hosting the most amazing hackathon! Enjoy the video of our project and the many selfies and tweets.

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8 thoughts on “Turtle Tank Light Sensor: My First IoT Project

  1. Pingback: 3 Reasons I’m Giving Back to Women In Tech in 2017 | Sunfish Empire LLC

  2. Pingback: Coming Full Circle in IoT and Women in Tech with FemmeHacks | Sunfish Empire LLC

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