Four eighth graders from the Livingston Robotics Club in Livingston, N.J., received a first-place award in this year’s national eCYBERMISSION competition. With this award, each team member will receive a $3,000.00 U.S. EE Savings Bond, a certificate of recognition from the U.S. Army and a free trip to the National Judging and Education Event (NJ&EE) in Baltimore, Md., in June to present their final project.
In the last two years, deer-related accidents have risen by 54 percent in New Jersey, the highest increase in the United States. According to State Farm Insurance, more than 2.4 million deer-motor vehicle collisions occurred between July 2007 and June 2009 in the United States, resulting in approximately 150 occupant deaths and more than $1.2 billion in vehicle damage. The team hypothesized that if they created a device that can detect deer or other large animals by recognizing the specific acoustic absorption signature of the animals’ fur, using the tire noise as a passive sonar source and sending out a warning signal to the drivers, the drivers can be warned to slow down in order to avoid collision.
The students conducted a number of indoor and outdoor tests for different variables they wanted to research to help them create a design that would detect deer. In the first experiment, students learned how the current deer deterrence systems worked. The second experiment tested if deer fur could absorb certain frequencies from car tire noise, the third experiment tested whether the sound of deer tails would be absorbed by a microphone and the final experiment tested the passive sonar theory.
The students found that the absorption of sound between 1,400 to 1,500 hertz can be used to detect a deer analog (a person in a bathrobe). The sound absorption tests produced a consistent and repeatable difference between deer tails, a towel, a bathrobe and a foam board in a controlled indoor laboratory environment. These findings were confirmed through outdoor drive-by trials between a person in a bathrobe and no person present. These tests proved that detection of sound absorption is possible in controlled environments, but there are many unknown variables such as weather, roadway conditions, tire noise, size, types and positions of animals, terrain, driver reflexes, advance warning time and driver education that have to be accounted for in the real world.
However, the team concluded that, based on the absorbed frequencies, it is possible to sense the presence or absence of an object using sound. The team’s next steps include learning more about electronics so that the team can begin to create a prototype for its device. After creating a working prototype, the team hopes to create a web site to present their design as an open source project.
To view a full list of the 2009-2010 eCYBERMISSION regional winning teams, click here.