Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience

The growth study has begun at USF. Environmental Engineering students are researching the direct effects of fertilizer treatments on the growth of rye grass. Students are utilizing different combinations of struvite, MCP, clinoptilite and chabazite to see which fertilizer and/or combination produces the greatest positive difference from the conventional fertilizers used today. Different methods of production were used to make the some of the fertilizers along with different amounts – a half and full dose are used. It is unknown what the specific trends are going to be until more weeks pass, however, there is promise of a good ending in this beginning.

Sprouts emerge a week after planting by USF students

Sprouts emerge a week after planting by USF students

The students involved in this endeavor under the direction of Dr. Sarina Ergas are Adib Amini, Veronica Aponte, John Pilz, Lindsay Guntner and Andres Garcia. Andres Garcia is a high school student who is utilizing his experiences at a research university like USF to sharpen his scientific abilities with hopes of a future career in science. Just as the symbolic growth of these sprouts show promise for interesting results, the students in this study hope to be a part of this until the end. Please follow us as we continue to provide updates on this growth study here on “Students for A Smarter Planet.”

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October 13th, 2014

As pieces and parts have come in over the last several weeks, we continued building up our varied and sundry parts into subsystems that will be demonstrated during our upcoming Alpha demo this week.

Our new motor, courtesy of Bodine and the fine folks at Control Resources: 12 Volts, 14 Amps continuous output:



This monster will generate the necessary torque to turn a fully-loaded 350 pound drum full of compost.

Here it is attached to a power source doing unloaded testing:



And below, the heart that will make this system beat. Because the solar panel and battery system both operate at 12VDC and the Arduino Uno needs less voltage than that to operate, in the interest of reducing heat generation (anything over about 7-9 volts, the Arduino will reduce by way of internal resistance), we’ll be using a DC/DC Buck- Boost converter to reduce supply voltage to the Ardiuno from 12V to 9V. Additionally, this will provide high voltage electrical isolation to protect the Ardiuno from any possible power transients that could be caused from the motor circuit. In the picture, it’s on the left.

On the right is the power MOSFET that will drive the motor itself. The gate signal will be provided from one of the 5V pins on the Arduino board, biasing the MOSFET to “ON” and running the motor.



Next up- more details about the challenges with programming the Arduino to communicate with several components simultaneously.

Thanks for stopping by!

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October 11th, 2014

Not a typo on my part, I assure you.  This story is not about the musical Fab4, but about an actual insect whose scales may give humankind a way to create products in a super shade of white using far less material than we have to now.   This could lead to better computer and TV displays, which are improved by white-light reflectors that use the beetle’s garden-grown technology.

Read the findings of the scientists from Cambridge University in England:

The beetles white album


Cyphochilus beetle (Credit: Lorenzo Cortese and Silvia Vignolini)

Here’s some more detailed info on the actual insect:  Cyphochilus

He’s kind of cute if you squinch your eyes partly closed and don’t think about him crawling on you…  And here’s a transcript of the radio story that drew my attention to this little critter:       AN INSECT WITH A SUPER-WHITE SHADE

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Programming has come a long way since I barely passed my required course in COBOL as an undergrad.  Learn about a new language that’s been added to the many already out there in this article from Wired online:


The Next Big Programming Language You’ve Never Heard Of


D language

Click the pic for interesting coding info!


You may want to add this one to your courseload…

“…judging from D activity on various online developer services—from GitHub to Stackoverflow—the language is now among the 20 to 30 most popular in the world.  D is a compiled language, meaning that you must take time to transform it into executable software before running it. Unlike with interpreted languages, you can’t run your code as soon as you write it. But it compiles unusually quickly.”

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October 7th, 2014

Children love to imagine flying far above the world with just ‘faith & trust – oh, and a little bit of pixie-dust’.  For right now, we still need a vehicle to get us airborne…but, here’s some tech that may change the game…  Is your work with Cognitive Computing similar?  What other applications can you envision for this ‘thought controlled’ headgear?  Take a few minutes to look at the other research being done at these German Universities (links below).

A combination of four pictures shows test person Thiel posing with an electroencephalography cap at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Garching

MICHAELA REHLE September 11, 2014 4:57 AM
A combination of four pictures shows test person Thiel posing with an electroencephalography cap at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Garching
A combination of four pictures shows test person Niklas Thiel posing with an electroencephalography (EEG) cap which measures brain activity, at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) in Garching near Munich September 9, 2014. The researchers from TUM and the Technische Universitaet Berlin (team Phypa) try to find ways to control an airplane with computer translated brain impulses without the pilot touching the plane’s controls. The solution, if achieved, would contribute to greater flight safety and reduce pilots’ workload. Picture taken September 9, 2014. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle (GERMANY – Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
CREDITS: Reuters, Yahoo News, Facebook

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