STEM-In-Action Spring Scoop: Aquatech

It's been a while but we're back to catch up with all our amazing STEM-In-Action grant teams who have been hard at work for months on furthering their projects for which they were awarded funding at last year's National Judging & Educational Event! If you're new to the eCYBER blog or you need a refresher, The U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) STEM-In-Action Grant awards eCYBERMISSION teams up to $5,000 to develop their projects into mature and scalable solutions in their community. Normally, we award this honorary grant to five teams, but in 2020 ten lucky teams took home the prestigious award. In the Fall, we caught up with all the teams to see how their initial progress was coming along, and now, as they veer towards the end of their grant-funded year, we are eager to see what's next for them. First up, we're headed to Virginia to check in with 8th grade team, Aquatech!
Hi, we’re team AquaTech from Virginia. Our team consists of Remi, Saranya, Anish, and Advaith. When we participated in the 2019 - 2020 competition, we created a smart shower water sensor to help people be aware of their shower water usage by tracking it with an app and using a buzzer to remind them to stop showering after a certain amount of water was used. Using the STEM-in-action Grant, we’ve begun the process of refining our solution and making a positive difference in our community.
When we first received the grant, our goals were to build some of our device parts on our own instead of buying them by using 3D printing, building a waterproof case, and working more on our app by switching platforms and making the app more interactive for the user. 

We are happy to say that many of these original goals are either almost completed or in progress. Currently, we are working on testing our electronics systems and focusing on our brand new app, which we are creating from scratch.

Since receiving the grant, we’ve made plenty of progress on 3D printing and designing. We also have attempted to work on the water flow sensor using new hardware and have been working on our app!
One of our major accomplishments so far was the use of CAD (Computer Automated Design) to design each of the components. We finished the majority of the designing and 3D printing in the last few months, allowing us to increase our focus on other aspects, such as app development and electronics. We will continue making minor changes to our designs as needed once the majority of electronics testing has been completed.

Another aspect was creating the app to display the data of our sensors and other statistics. Currently, we programmed the frontend (User Interface) portion of our app in React Native, which includes many styling options and has the compatibility of apps in both the Android and the Apple store. We are also simultaneously working on the backend (data transfer) part of the app by connecting the AWS DynamoDB database to our app. The flow layout, as well as some screenshots of our app designs are shown below. 

Splash Screen Logo, digitally drawn by us:

Our real time goals are to improve integration between components and app design. We’ve already got the 3D printed part designs down, but we are still working on combining both these parts and the electronic parts together. Our goal right now is to test the magnets with the built in hall effect sensor on our Arduino (ESP32) to read and count rotations. Then, we plan to screw all the parts together and test them with a faucet. In terms of app development, we hope to continue to improve our app so that it is simple for the user to navigate and free from any bugs in the code. We have already completed most of the UI as well as some functional components of the app.

In the future, we plan to start working on a waterproof case that fits all of the parts we’ve created and can withstand the shower environment (heat + water). On the app development side, our long term goal is to have a functioning, clean looking app that is able to display, send and receive data using Amazon DynamoDB.

The components of our design

One of the struggles about the app development was that none of us had that much experience with frontend or backend development in JavaScript, especially in React Native and DynamoDB. The frontend is referred to the design/styling of the app, particularly all of the screens, buttons, and everything that we see in an app, which we had to plan out designs for. The backend is all the things you don’t see including storage of shower data, transfer of data from the Arduino to the app, etc.

The Statistics Page of the App

One of the last areas we struggled with in the 3D printing and designing area. Due to a lack of experience with design and 3D printing our parts, we had to learn the basics of computer Automated Design (CAD) in Fusion 360, as well as using QIDI print. Fusion 360 is used for creating all our designs, which we then export to the QIDI print software that sends it to the 3D printer. Another part of this was the design and brainstorming process for the water flow sensor, but due to a minor flaw regarding the orientation of the magnet while designing, we weren’t able to get proper readings.
Since we weren’t sure how to start with react native, we had to spend plenty of our time learning the basics of this language. We were able to learn from many helpful resources and tutorials online, while solidifying our knowledge enough to create our app from scratch. We also learned about DynamoDB to store data from each user in a database.

Lastly, the area of CAD was a new field to all of us. At first, it was somewhat of a struggle, but we eventually were able to improve our knowledge in Fusion 360 (design software) after trial and error and were able to design our components!! To overcome the magnet holder design problem, we had to settle for a smaller and stronger magnet, which could rotate around the hall effect sensor.

We had the opportunity to be interviewed by a reporter named Brooke Lewitas for the Fairfax Times, our local county newspaper. We were in an article called “Local eighth graders nationally recognized for innovation in water waste” in the “Positive Vibes” column of the newspaper.

One of the hardest challenges we encountered by far was in the electronics side a few weeks ago. For some reason, readings from our Arduino chip (ESP32), a part we had always used from the beginning, produced random connection errors and inaccurate readings. At that time, we tried different ESP32s, different connecting cables, and even different laptops, though we still couldn’t solve this problem. 

When we encountered this problem, we were unable to make major progress in testing electronics due these unexpected arduino errors. After a few weeks of emailing professors, asking companies, browsing Reddit, and asking questions on forums, we started reinstalling drivers and 3rd party additions which allowed us to reestablish communication with the ESP32 and move further with testing.

Our team is incredibly excited to continue our work with the grant and hope to make even more progress in the next few months. We are working really hard to ensure that our product is as successful and as well developed as possible. In the future we are definitely most excited to see all of our hard work in major fields (app development, electronics, 3D printed parts) come together and form a wonderful final product! 

Our hall effect sensor design so far

The most ideal scenario for our project is if we find a way to successfully create our own 5V hydroelectric generator to power our device, and add it inside the 3D printed parts. We originally attempted to recreate our own generator using copper wire, and magnets, though we were unable to produce enough voltage and accurately record them last year. However, given the current time frame, we would most likely have to outsource this component and attach it to our hall effect sensor via a pipe connector although we remain optimistic about this idea.
Truly extraordinary, Aquatech! Our amazement never ceases to end with all our participants and this team is no exception. Whether our teams tackle specific community problems or they tackle worldwide issues, like Aquatech, the point of each mission is to make the world a better place - and they're all doing just that.

-Mission Control

Colleen Minan
AEOP Communications & Marketing Specialist


Popular Posts