Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
September, 21st 2014

The future of farming is becoming more clear everyday. In Minnesota, a company called Rowbot has created a robot that can apply fertilizer when the plants are growing so fast, needing fertilizer more than ever during their lifespan. By reducing the amount of fertilizer applied, the robot can reduce the amount of nitrogen that can leach into the waterways after it rains. The potential to stop pollution by limiting the amount of fertilizer used is both economical and good for the planet as a whole.

As the machine travels between rows, it can spray two rows of corn on either side of the machine. It uses GPS to know when it’s reached the end of the field, and LIDAR, or laser-scanning, to make sure it stays between rows of mature cornstalks without hitting them. Although such fields could also be fertilized at any time via irrigation, only about 15 percent of U.S. cornfields are irrigated.

Agricultural drones such as this one have become a part of a technological revolution in farming that is changing the face of the industry. According to Mike Schmitt from the University of Minnesota, the ability to apply fertilizer at precise times and locations is “very critical.” Rowbot is a company that is one of several trying to make an impact on the planet. This is just a foretaste of what is to come.

Read more here


Farm bot: This robot rolls between corn rows, applying nitrogen fertilizer to mature plants, and using laser-scanning to avoid hitting stalks.

Farm bot:
This robot rolls between corn rows, applying nitrogen fertilizer to mature plants, and using laser-scanning to avoid hitting stalks.

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September, 19th 2014

As the semester kicks into full swing, more parts have started arriving, and we’ve begun testing, refining our designs, and more testing.

First up, our temperature sensors, courtesy of Sparkfun. This is a simple, robust design that will start the drum rotating once temperature reaches a certain threshold.



And of course, our Arduino Uno R3 that will be the brain of our entire system. Mouad and I have been working very closely together to set the groundwork for the power-control  interface.



And finally, magnetic pickups that will be part of our safety system, to make sure the system can’t run when the drum door is open.



More parts are coming every week, and we just finished our Critical Design Review last week. Stay tuned for more about that!


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September, 19th 2014

Here’s a novel approach to ‘garaging’ your automobile…it’ll keep you from breaking into a sweat when you enter the vehicle.  Of greater value is the eco-friendly aspect of the whole idea!

Per Jim Kliesch, research associate at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and vehicle analyst for, parking in the shade reduces evaporative emissions – gas evaporating from your tank because of the heat (a hot gas tank may result in more evaporation of fuel – which is both wasteful and potentially expensive over the long term.)  Installing solar panels on the rooftop of a car-port keeps your auto cooler AND can generate energy for your home’s electrical system.

While it may take some time to convince the masses, wouldn’t all those parked cars baking in the sun be a neat way to power a mall?  Or a stadium?  How about the parking lots at railway stations being energy producers while the cars owners are elsewhere?  Think of the possibilities – - – and use your own inventiveness to figure out other applications for solar technology!

Solar Carports


Check out     ACEEEfor other applications of

energy-efficient technology, jobs, internships, etc!



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September, 18th 2014

A new study by German scientists attempts to answer the question that we’ll need to know once we immigrate from Earth to other planets in our solar system and beyond. The space agencies are busy working on sustaining human life away from Earth but after that’s resolved we’ll need a way to feed ourselves. In comes this study. The scientists didn’t go to Mars to conduct the study but used dust from around volcanoes in Hawaii to simulate the extraterrestrial soil. For comparison the study used deposits from a dormant volcano in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA to simulate Moon soil in addition to soil from beneath the Rhine River, as the Earth soil. For these tests they used plants that thrive in ‘bad’ soil. The plants were watered, using demilitarized water, twice a day and left to fend for themselves. The results? The Moon plants didn’t survive. The Earth plants grew, but the Mars plants; they out performed the Earth plants. Amazing! So get ready and put some seeds in your pocket for your next trip to Mars. You may feed a planet.

Can Plants Grow on Mars and the Moon: A Growth Experiment on Mars and Moon Soil Simulants

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September, 18th 2014

An Icelandic tannery, Atlantic Leather is taking perch, salmon, wolffish and cod skin, a by-product of the fisheries industry and turning it into leather for luxury fashion.

The fish leather produced at Atlantic Leather is environmentally friendly, in two different ways:

  1. it is a by-product of the fisheries industry, utilizing raw material that would not otherwise be used
  2. the production process makes use of renewable hydro and geothermal energy

From shoes…..

blog fish leather

to clothing….. blog fish leather2

to accessories…..     blog fish leather3


to wall covering, this very durable, yet flexible product is an innovation whose time has come!

blog fish leather4

The next time you go shopping for clothes or decor, you might want to check out this new product.

This idea grew out of someone’s imagination and with some innovative thinking, turned into a thriving business.  Do you have any eco-friendly ideas that you’d like to see come to fruition?



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