Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
North Carolina State U

Greetings! I’m Ted, and I’ll be one of your guides for the next two semesters as my team and I strive to build the ultimate compost solution for the home gardener.

First, an introduction to our program at North Carolina State University. All four of us are seniors in the Electrical Engineering program, specializing in the fairly new Renewable Electric Energy Systems concentration.

From the Electrical Engineering department’s website:

The new concentration evolved to address the need to create a national power system capable of integrating geographically distributed renewable energy and advanced storage systems that will interface with the existing electric utility systems to serve the country’s future electric energy demands.

We’re fortunate that NC State’s Centennial Campus has been blessed with a myriad of resources, from the National Science Foundation- funded FREEDM Center to on-campus businesses who are also contributing to research, with companies cutting-edge companies such as ABB, Inc; Advanced Energy Corporation; Sungard; and WISERsystems, Inc just down the road and sharing funding, research, and even talent with the University.


Of course, any post about technology and North Carolina State University would be severely lacking without at least a little bit of bragging about our new library as well.



Opened in January of 2013, the James B. Hunt Library has already several awards for sustainability and design innovation. As engineering students, it’s become more than just a place to do homework and study for exams; with over 100 study rooms open to reservation and numerous specialized computer tools and resources, it’s become almost a home away from home for all of us.

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NCSU students are receiving an award for their project “Solar Powered Intelligent Compost System”. They are going to build a prototype automated, self-contained composting system aimed at the home gardener, using commercially available components and sustainable resources. The tumbler will not only automate the turning process of the compost pile, but will make the composting process intelligent. Using sensors and controls, factors such as temperature and moisture content of the compost will be able to be monitored and also controlled.   This system is aimed at older gardeners who may have difficulty using existing compost tumblers, busy professionals who want to have a larger backyard garden but may not always have the time available to keep up with the compost production, people who travel a fair amount and would rather spend their time at home in the garden and not composting, or people with disabilities who might find rotating a compost tumbler a difficult task.

I could really use this!!

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Our initial post and project introduction can be found here:

Design Day was a success! By the end of one semester we met all of our initial goals and we think the end result looks very clean and professional. Here is an image of what the final build looked like:

Final Prototype


The main functionality of our parking monitor is:

  • Vehicle detection
  • Parking pass validation
  • Ability to take picture of parking space
  • Visual feedback to driver
  • WiFi interface to command center
  • Solar powered

Here is a slide show of our project that we made for Design Day. At the end of the slide show is a video of the monitor working in a parking deck.

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December 13th, 2013

We got a working prototype of our Smart Irrigation system ready for Design Day.  We were able to get the sensors to read soil saturation levels of different zones (represented with different potted plants), and then have our microprocessor compute an appropriate amount of time to irrigate each zone.  We learned a lot about pcb design, embedded systems and way more about soil science than we ever thought we would!


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December 12th, 2013

Throughout the semester we worked on our project and we are very happy to announce that it works. We ran into a couple snags with the design however we were able to work them out. We have a system that turns the breaker on and off in your house when it detects a power outage. The micro-controller is able to control everything and we have a screen to display data. We of course incorporated a solar panel to charge the batteries for the micro-controller to allow  it to function even in a long power outage.

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