Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Student Projects
September 30th, 2014

January 2015 seems like it’s a long way away, doesn’t it?

It feels like there are weeks and weeks to go before we have to pack up our flying gear and head down to Belize to start aerially surveying the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. But before we know it, it will be January. It’ll be time to escape frigid western Massachusetts and kick our research into gear – and for that, we’ve already begun preparations.

Though surveys of the soft coral have been performed in the past, we’re hoping to use UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the training required to safely fly a UAV is far less than that for complete pilot licensure. Also decreased are the costs associated with equipment and fuel requirements for a UAV in comparison to a full-size, manned vehicle. Finally, the quality – and quantity – of imagery obtainable with a personally controlled, low-flying aerial device is vastly increased due to the lower altitudes and number of passes that can be made by the vehicle.

Whether fixed-wing or multi-rotor, the potential applications for UAV technology in geological and biological survey work are numerous, this particular job being just one example where an eye-in-the-sky really does provide a much-needed overview of the habitat just off the coast of Belize.

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The world’s fertilizer producers have a large task at hand – to feed the world’s need for more fertilizer. The need is so great that the companies are not just accelerating production. New factories are being built because farmers are not getting enough to feed their crops, with fertilizer prices making purchase out of reach for many farmers worldwide. When the new factories produce the much-needed fertilizers, the farmers will be able to buy the fertilizers at lower prices once more. The methods to produce the chemical fertilizers are through fossil fuels. This is a temporary solution for a growing problem that environmental engineers need to address, if any sustainable solution is to be reached.

Read more from the New York Times

Worldwide, fertilizer needs and projections are shown.

Worldwide, fertilizer is needed. Developing countries are relying more heavily on chemical fertilizers, leading to an increased demand.

Fertilizer use is increasing and the dead zones are growing. More fertilizer use is going to lead to more dead zones worldwide, and the pollution caused is only going to grow in the present trend. Solutions are needed. Environmental engineers worldwide are devising ways to provide equivalent alternatives to chemical fertilizer. Fertilizers from solid waste is something sustainable that has great potential, if properly accessed. At the University of South Florida, students are trying to find ways to access the nutrients in solid waste so that a cheap and effective fertilizer alternative can be created. With the goal to limit the leaching (ability to dissolve quickly), the fertilizers USF students are trying to create and test out may last longer. When fertilizers last longer, they don’t need to be replaced as fast. Efficient nutrient delivery is what farmers want for a low price, and USF students are attempting to make that dream into a reality.

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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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Did you ever deal with ‘toothy’ stuff… Braces?  Fillings?  Crowns?  Implants?  Root canal?   A trip to the dentist is usually not looked forward to with  much enthusiasm – more like trepidation.  But – did you ever stop to think about the effects of our oral hygiene on the rest of the planet?  Maybe Mother Earth is as frightened of the sound of a dentist’s drill as humans are – and possibly with good reason!

Dental Recycling International (DRI) announced that it has partnered with the Rwanda Dental Association. DRI provides education on and technology for dental waste recycling throughout the world, and will help the association to reduce the amount of mercury from dental amalgam entering the local environment.  Take a look at related articles found linked at the bottom of the posting.  There’s a great piece on amalgam alternatives, with credits to U Illinois, too.

And check out Dental Recycling International (DRI) while you’re at it!





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