image1Hello again! My name is Gabe Wham. I am a going into my 4th year at CSU as a Mechanical Engineering student with a minor in Biomedical Engineering. This summer I have been interning at Medtronic in Boulder. Medtronic is a global medical device manufacturer that focuses on products used in the operating room (Ligasure and vessel sealing) and patient monitoring in hospitals.

Due to confidentiality I am not able to go into much detail about my project. At a very basic level though I was involved with making one of our jaw designs capable of cutting tissue properly. I experimented with 3-D printed model jaw designs, as well as mono and bipolar energy delivery to the blade. Included in my experiments was the use of Nichrome wire, which is a resistive wire designed to be able to reach high temperatures without breaking. Most importantly, I took it upon myself to investigate what makes a high quality blade and once understood this, I developed 8 different blade designs that we gave to a manufacture to produce. Those blades will be arriving shortly before the end of my internship. While the details are confidential due to pre-product release, I would like to discuss a bit about what I’ve learned over the summer.

“At a very basic level though I was involved with making one of our jaw designs capable of cutting tissue properly. I experimented with 3-D printed model jaw designs, as well as mono and bipolar energy delivery to the blade.”

  1. Tlogo (2)he people you work with and environment you work in is incredibly impactful to your success. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a company that not only creates an enjoyable environment to work in, but actively draws passionate individuals through its doors. Everyone I work with is here because they like what they do and believe that their work will make a positive difference in the world. Even during rather a heated design discussion, it is nice to be able to step back and realize that we all are simply trying to create the best device for the patient.
  2. There is something to be said in the fact that you do something better when you stop thinking about how well your doing it. One of the greatest learning experiences I’ve had here is realizing that I am capable of producing great work even though it may not always seem that way while you are working on it.
  3. The real world is much different than school. Even if you’re not the very best student in school, don’t sweat it too much. The working world is quite different. What you want to take away from school is your work ethic and desire to learn and improve your knowledge and skills. Take with you a passion for what you’re doing. That’s honestly why I got this internship even though I was less qualified than other applicants. I was more passionate about wanting to work here because of the difference I wanted to make. If you are passionate and motivated, it doesn’t matter that you don’t know what you’re doing, because you’ll learn. But you should always push yourself to new situations and experiences because it builds confidence, and teaches you just what you’re capable of. Stop worrying about what you look like doing something, what others will think. Just get out there, and do it, and do your best at it.

 

IMG_2578Hey y’all! This is Andrew Harris and I am a senior studying Civil Engineering here at The beautiful Colorado State University. I am currently working with the Army Corps of Engineers as an intern here in downtown Portland, Oregon after completing a month long field training exercise in Fort Knox, Kentucky. From dams to bridges, coastal protection, river and levee maintenance, The Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) job in Portland is vastly diverse. My job at USACE mainly focuses on dam and levee protection but when I commission as an Army officer in two years, my job will be to blow up anything and everything up with C4…but I will talk more about that towards the end of this blog post.

One of the main missions for USACE in the Portland District is dam and levee safety. The Columbia river is critical for flood mitigation and movement of agricultural goods. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, much of the destruction happened from the levee system failing and flooding the surrounding areas. When investigations on why the levees failed took place, it was found that many of the levees were poorly maintained or improper improvements (such as roads, walkways, utility lines, pipes, ect) had weakened the levees. Major changes took place where now levees are inspected every year and thoroughly inspected every five years to make sure critical failure doesn’t happen again. As part of my internship I have been apart of several of these levee inspections. The levees range  in quality from a well designed earthen dam with concrete reinforcement to a simple pile of dirt which a farmer has moved to the edge of a river to protect crops. Some levees are more important than others, and this determines appropriations of federal funding.

“The combination of active duty and civil components of engineering makes this one of the most diverse organizations in the army. Engineers at USACE have focuses and disciplines like any other engineer but active duty engineers responsibilities more specific tasks for the Army”

The best part of my job is visiting or inspecting dams here in Oregon. This area of the United States has so many dams that the USACE stays very busy maintaining everything. In a week, I will be apart of the Big Cliff Dam inspection project. This dam is a few miles downstream from the Detroit dam and controls the immediate river behind the massive dam. The water level behind Big Cliff can vary by twenty feet which is unusually high for the average dam. I was also able to visit John Day Dam on the Columbia river and the size of that dam is unreal. There, I was able to learn how hydropower works (it’s a lot more complicated than moving water through a turbine to spin a generator) and the day to day operations of a massive dam. The picture of me is at the top of the tower for the lock system–John Day has the largest single gate lock in America and this massive cog in the background of the picture is what moves the gate.

Army Corps of Engineers PortlandWhat I have learned at my internship is that the combination of active duty and civil components of engineering makes this one of the most diverse organizations in the army. Engineers at USACE have focuses and disciplines like any other engineer but active duty engineers have more specific responsibilities for the Army. Engineers include construction, fire-firefighting, bridge design and construction, diving, and all things explosive for the infantry. Engineers are the original explosive disposal and much of our job still is focused around bombs. After a career in the Army, my knowledge base will be an inch deep and a mile wide and this has its pros and cons. When speaking with combat engineers, it seems that much of what they do is centered around explosives. In the Army we can build bridges and well as blow them up–it’s what we’re good at. As an officer, my job is to lead the experts in their respective fields and help them achieve what they were trained to do.

FullSizeRender (1)Hi again! This is Ally Baumgart and I will be entering my fourth year as a Biomedical and Mechanical Engineer at CSU. I recently completed my internship at Bio2 Medical, Inc. in Golden, CO and saying goodbye this week was definitely a bittersweet experience! This summer, I worked as a Research & Development engineer and was the only intern in an office of about 25 people. I am excited to share my experiences with you!

Bio2 Medical, Inc. is a small company focused on the development of the Angel Catheter, a new and innovative product designed to prevent pulmonary embolism in trauma patients in the ICU of the hospital. Pulmonary embolism occurs when blood clots form in deep veins of the body, travel through the heart and invade the lungs–the condition is a leading cause of death in critically ill and injured patients. To prevent such conditions from occuring, the Angel Catheter is inserted into the jugular vein of the right leg and the filter on its distal tip is positioned in the inferior Vena Cava, thus catching clots from the lower extremities before they are able to reach the heart and become deadly blockages.

“I have gained huge confidence in myself within a professional capacity by solving problems on my own and working independently…[some of these skills my internship] provided me with are so far outside from what a classroom could ever offer me.”

This summer as an intern at Bio2, I developed a new thermal bonding process that joins the proximal and distal catheter sub-assemblies in order to produce the final Angel Catheter product that is then packaged and sent out to hospitals. To do so, I spent countless days determining the bonding parameters that resulted in the highest tensile strength and optimal visual characteristics of the bonded material. These parameters included the optimal bonding time and temperature, annealing conditions, as well as pre and post-bonding conditioning. I conducted numerous tensile tests and even “gowned up” in a hairnet, gown, and shoe covers to understand how the final, sterile product is manufactured and packaged in the cleanroom. Additionally, I designed and 3D printed various catheter parts, dies, and thermal bonder tooling which is now used in the clean-room for the manufacture of the final catheter.   Accompanying my research and testing, I needed to write many technical reports, work instructions, and operational protocols.

While I really did enjoy the work I did everyday, the most valuable part of my summer internship was the professional atmosphere I was surrounded in. I learned how to interact and perform in a professional setting, how to conduct and contribute new concepts to a business meeting, and how to correctly document ideas, test results, and findings for the likely case of an FDA audit. Most importantly, I have gained huge confidence in myself within a professional capacity by solving problems on my own and working independently. I realize now that the skills and knowledge my internship experience at Bio2 Medical provided me with are so far outside from what a classroom could ever offer me.

Looking back, I feel so lucky to have had such an incredible summer at an amazing office environment. It was casual and fun–my supervisors along with the rest of the office made me feel like a valued part of the Bio2 team. I was offered a second summer internship as well as a full-time position after I graduate college, and I hope to be able to return someday in the near future. In the mean time, I could not be more excited to move back to Fort Collins for my final two years of engineering!

IMG_1085_2Hi again! My name is Briana Chamberlain. This fall, I will be a senior at CSU studying Chemical and Biological Engineering. For the past year, I have been interning with New Belgium Brewing. The 100% employee-owned brewery is not only the maker of delicious beers such as Snapshot and Blue Paddle (two of my personal favorites), but they are also a Certified B Corp because they believe business can be a force for good. From my first day on the job, I could see New Belgium’s commitment to our community, employees, and environment was at the forefront of all operations.

For my internship, I am helping with a massive re-control project of the brewery in which we are replacing our old control system with a new control system. This project gives us the opportunity to standardize all of our documentation and processes while making major efficiency updates. I have helped primarily with the design and development of our SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) screens which are the graphical user interfaces that the brewers see and interact with to run the brewery. Learning how much detail and coordination goes into the control of even just one valve or motor or flow transmitter has been eye opening. My favorite aspect of this project is the collaboration that occurs between teams such as brewing, electrical, maintenance, and programming.

In addition, I have done some programming of the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller). The PLC is what contains all of the code that actually runs every automated device in the brewery. As a Chemical Engineering student, I learn about processes most often in an ideal state. When commissioning the yeast area back in July, I had the opportunity to troubleshoot first hand and learn about the reality of working in a real environment vs. simulated environment. From valves not opening enough, to faulty transmitters, all these problems are for the team to solve and often must be resolved in a time crunch. During a big commissioning, the whole brewery is still operating so we have to meet normal production needs while still implementing our new control system in the area of focus. If something goes wrong, that can mean a huge loss of product. Our product here is beer, and no one ever wants to waste beer!

“My supervisors and co-workers didn’t just teach me about engineering or how to make beer, they taught me how to live a full life and what it means to be truly invested in your work, day in and day out.”

On top of all the engineering lessons, this past year came a lot of life lessons, too. A strong work-life balance is extremely important to New Belgium Brewing as was evident from talking to any co-worker. I have never met a group of people more hard working and down to earth. From Thursday night volleyball to enjoying a shift beer after a long day, my favorite part of this co-op experience was the people surrounding me. My supervisors and co-workers didn’t just teach me about engineering or how to make beer, they taught me how to live a full life and what it means to be truly invested in your work, day in and day out.

I will deeply miss getting to come to the brewery every day and work hard for a company I believe in and trust. Fortunately, they won’t be far. I’m also extremely excited to visit next year right on campus at the New Belgium Porch in the new CSU Rams football stadium! This partnership is just one of the many examples of a company always putting their values first and knowing the importance of giving back. I could not be more proud to have worked for New Belgium and will take this experience with me for the rest of my life. Go Rams, and cheers!

MCC VanHey there! Once again, my name is Ben Lorden and I am a senior studying Mechanical Engineering here at Colorado State University . I just wrapped up my internship with Siemens, the world leader in electrical manufacturing. My internship was in technical sales with their Industry division, selling power distribution and automation products.

This summer has been full of growth and learning, both about Siemens as a company, and the industry as a whole. I spent a large portion of the summer making phone calls to current customers who had called into our technical support line to ensure that their problems were solved and also to inquire about new business. I became far more comfortable talking on the phone and gained a great amount of knowledge about our various products through this experience. When I was not making calls, I went through countless training sessions online and in a classroom setting to learn about the products offered and the value proposition of those products.

After phone calls I was able to accompany a few of the sales representatives out on calls to prospective clients. I was able to see how the sales process worked and learned about the companies that we were selling to. I interacted with a few of our integrators, partners, and distributors and I learned about how the pieces fit together to provide the greatest value to the customer.

Soon after, we had a Motor Control Center (MCC) display van (pictured above) delivered to the office from California. I had never heard of a MCC before, but learned that it is useful in industrial applications to streamline the process by putting all of the controls for the motors (Breakers, Variable Frequency Drives, Soft Starters, etc.) in the same location, even if the motors are spread all over to plant. I was tasked with driving this van to various customers and was able to learn a great amount about motor control centers by listening to the sales folks as they presented it. As the summer wore on, I was able to present some of the information about the MCC and became very familiar with the advantages and strengths of our product. After a few weeks I drove the van out to Price, UT and met some of the local sales team there before leaving the van with them and flying home.

“After my internship with Siemens this summer, I think that sales could be a great opportunity to satisfy my desire within engineering to work closely with other people.”

The last major task that I was assigned was to make cold calls to find new business. This was a slow process because the success rate is astoundingly low, but I was able to gather some information for the sales team that will help them generate new business. Through this task I learned the importance of open-ended questions and how key it is to get the other person talking. Once they feel heard, they will be more willing to hear what you have to say.

Siemens-logo-vectorI found that a people-focused job where I could utilize my technical knowledge while building relationships was a great fit for who I am. I loved going out and talking to customers, hearing about the problems that they face, and then helping them solve those problems. I took away many great lessons about how to conduct sales more effectively, how to be a contributing member of a company, and also the importance of being a lifelong learner, hungry to grow and learn something new, every single day. After my internship with Siemens this summer, I think that sales could be a great opportunity to satisfy my desire within engineering to work closely with people. I look forward to seeing where I end up and where this lifelong adventure takes me!

IMG_5256This is Tori Chipman again – Mechanical and Biomedical engineering student entering my fourth year here at CSU. I am having a blast at Arrow Electronics, where I am wrapping up my internship for the summer. The engineering project is complete–we designed a Smart Fire System with a phone application and a robot that helps extinguish fires. South Metro Fire Rescue let us use their burn house to light fires and test our system which was extremely fun!

I worked with a team of 19 engineering interns on this project. We all had a great time as colleagues over the past few months. We would go to lunch together, golf together, and we even had two barbecues. It is a great experience working in a large team of other college students from different schools. We all made great connections and friendships with each other.

We also were placed into smaller groups to develop a business plan to sell the fire system we developed. All 130+ interns at Arrow from every different department are placed into 13 groups for our competition. Each group will present their sales plan to higher-ups at the company during the Intern Summit at the end of the summer. This provides a very well-rounded experience as we went through the full life cycle product development from engineering to sales.

“We designed a Smart Fire System with a phone application and a robot that helps extinguish fires–[it was] a great experience working in a large team of other college students from different schools.”

imageMy favorite experience was driving the Arrow Sam Car! The Sam Car is a 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray that Arrow modified so that it can be driven with head movements and a straw. Blowing into the straw accelerates, sucking breaks, and moving your head from side to side steers. This car was developed for the race car driver Sam Schmidt, who is now a paraplegic, so that he can drive again. This summer he did the Pikes Peak Hill climb in amazing time. The car showcases Arrow’s technologies, capabilities, and “Five Years Out” thinking. It was such an honor to be able to drive it.

Arrow LogoMy internship at Arrow taught me a lot about what it takes to design a product. Mechanical, electrical, software, and computer engineers all had to work together to integrate their parts into one successful product. A lot of teamwork and learning was involved during this process. Overall, this internship was an invaluable learning experience.

IMG_5334Few people get to experience the rush of being totally exposed at 230 feet above the ground in their entire life, but I have had the opportunity to do just that and much more during the past 2 months with Mortenson Construction. As the days of summer come to a close, as with many working college students, the thought of returning to school actually sounds relaxing! Overall though, I am incredibly grateful for everything I have learned and received from my time with Mortenson this summer.

As mentioned in my previous blog, my name is Trey Ahern and I am a senior Civil Engineering student working as a project management intern with Mortenson Construction. Mortenson specializes in the construction of large buildings and stadiums like the new CSU Stadium. They have also become a key leader in the construction of renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar farms. This summer I was assigned to help with the roadway and utility extensions leading up to what will be the new Gaylord Rockies Hotel and Convention Center near Denver International Airport.

The highlight of my work so far this summer was feeling the adrenaline pumping through my body as I climbed and then controlled one of the four massive tower cranes on site. As exhausting as it was to climb the dozens of ladders to the top, the view and thrill was well worth it. A little less exhilarating than climbing cranes, document control, owner correspondence, and material tracking have been my other major responsibilities throughout the summer. On large construction sites, building plans are constantly being updated with various redesigned aspects. It has been my job to always ensure that the updates were being communicated to the office engineers along with the laborers in the field. Whenever there was an issue with the plans or a question about the design arose, it was my responsibility to address it with the owner through an RFI (request for information). In order to make sure subcontractors are being paid for the work and materials they provide, thorough tracking must be done. Material tracking with large excel sheets was another one of my major jobs. These three tasks were just a few of the hundreds of other responsibilities I took on that taught me more about the construction industry.

“The highlight of my work so far this summer was feeling the adrenaline pumping through my body as I climbed and then controlled one of the four massive tower cranes on site.”

MortLogoMortenson has provided me with several awesome opportunities, like being able to travel to Minneapolis for a large intern gathering and to compete on a project volleyball team. The key lesson I am going to take with me back to school and into my future career is that communication is key. Effective communication involves detailing not just brainstorming the task or idea and includes the context of the plan such as the purpose and end goals. Mortenson blew my expectations of  a summer internship in the construction industry out of the water. I highly recommend them to anyone interested in construction and look forward to a potential full time career with Mortenson Construction.

 

IMG_0090[13]Hi again, I’m Morgan and I will be a fourth year Chemical, Biological, and Biomedical Engineering student here at CSU. This summer I have had the privilege to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). LANL was established in 1943 as the site of the Manhattan Project for the purpose of designing and creating the world’s first atomic bomb. Today the laboratory is one of the largest science and technology institutions in the world, researching in fields like nanotechnology, renewable energy, national security, space exploration, and bioscience.

This summer I worked in the chemistry division, in a group working specifically in radiochemistry on projects that support national security programs. The skills I learned are applicable in radiochemistry, mass spectrometry, and other technologies to enable environmental monitoring that support LANL’s global security mission. This experience has taught me that developing good laboratory skills is essential for career growth in any scientific field. I work with, maintain and utilize some of the most advanced equipment, methodologies, and facilities that are available in the world today. Working with this group will help me prosper, not only in my remaining years at CSU, but also in my future career aspirations. Working within both large and small focus teams, I have learned to interact with workers at all professional levels.

The data that is produced by our group must meet extremely high quality standards and each sample is limited. All samples are unique, therefore it is extremely important that the right processes and techniques are being used so no samples are lost or ruined. The laboratory I am working in is a class 100 clean room, which means that upon entering all employees must have full body lab suits, clean room shoes, safety glasses, hair caps (pictured), and  wear gloves when working with any of the materials and chemicals provided. A clean room provides HEPA filtered air and is used to keep the particle count down so samples are not contaminated. Any glassware, tools, or lab materials must all be cleaned thoroughly before using for samples. Since the samples that are analyzed have only trace amounts of the analytes that are measured, it is extremely important that the pristine lab environment to be maintained. This seems contradictory to most chemistry labs where the laboratory equipment and engineering controls are used to protect the worker from the samples and the chemicals.  In our case, we are protecting the samples from the environment and the workers, while keeping the workers safe at the same time.

“I work with, maintain and utilize some of the most advanced equipment, methodologies, and facilities that are available in the world today. Working with this group will help me prosper, not only in my remaining years at CSU, but also in my future career aspirations.”

The main isotope I have worked with this summer is plutonium 239 which can be measured down to femtogram levels (10^-15 grams). In this chemistry we use a Pu-242 tracer to quantify the Pu-239 and 240 isotopes. The isotopes are measured in amu (atomic mass unit) which is key to chemical separation and purification. This separation, purification, measurement and analysis process provides high precision results. The low level detection capabilities of the mass spectrometry instrumentation is crucial for ensuring the health and safety of the LANL work force.

2010_lanlLANL creates a very welcoming environment for students. There are multiple events such as ice cream socials, BBQs, workout classes, and all sorts of activities and tours you can participate in.  I have met the lab director and many of the upper level managers who are very supportive of all levels of workers, including students, and are at most of the student events. Their actions demonstrate that they truly believe that the growth of LANL depends on us.  All the employees I have had the privilege of working with have been so helpful and done everything they can to make every summer experience beneficial.

IMG_8025Hello again! My name is Kalli Wegren and I am going to be a senior this year in civil engineering. I am spending my summer in Phoenix, Arizona where I am interning at Kimley-Horn and Associates. Kimley-Horn is a national consulting firm that provides engineering services within transportation, aviation, energy, environmental, water utilities, and other infrastructures. I cannot believe that in a few weeks I will be headed back home to Fort Collins! Working at Kimley-Horn has been a fantastic experience, and I am so glad I have had the opportunity to work for them.

I was hired on as a roadway division intern, but I also had the opportunity to work with the drainage group. Drainage is very interesting to me, so I was excited to have this opportunity. For both groups, I did a lot of production work. This includes fixing edits for the professional engineer or client, checking designs and estimates for mistakes, and plotting designs. I used AutoCAD and MicroStation to complete production tasks. Although production can be tedious, it was a great experience being able to become familiar with roadway and drainage designs, to understand the different aspects in design, and learn about design expectations based on the client. For example, the county department of transportation has different design requirements than the state department of transportation. In addition to production work, I also helped out on two reports and drainage plans. I assisted with an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Ramp Compliance Report and Countermeasure Report. For the ADA Ramp Compliance report, I ensured that the sidewalk ramps in the roadway design plan met ADA standards. The Countermeasure Report was part of a project that Kimley-Horn was hired in order to review another engineer’s plan and to come up with alternatives that would save money. Using MicroStation, I helped estimate cost differences between different alternatives and create exhibits to include in the report. Some of the alternatives included omitting the sidewalk on one side of the street, utilizing existing irrigation crossing, and using pipe instead of concrete for ditch replacement. This report was intriguing to work on because it was interesting to see all the different options there are in roadway design and to see how different factors, such as safety and cost, affect a design. One of my favorite assignments to work on has been a roadway drainage project. I assisted in creating a proposed drainage plan in which I had to calculate the volume of various drainage basins and determine the direction of flow of storm water on a roadway–I was able to use my GIS experience from CSU to create a location and vicinity map of the drainage project area. The various tasks and projects I worked on this summer enabled me to learn important skills and knowledge within civil engineering.

“I assisted in creating a proposed drainage plan in which I had to calculate the volume of various drainage basins and determine the direction of flow of storm water on a roadway–I was able to use my GIS experience from CSU to create a location and vicinity map of the drainage project area.”

In addition to working on projects at Kimley-Horn, I have also been involved in other activities. Kimley-Horn has a committee called “VP of Fun” which plans fun office events throughout the year. Not only was I able to attend “Snow Cone Day” at the office, I was also invited to participate in two VP of Fun meetings. Both meetings were about planning the office holiday party and reviewing other fun events that were planned. It was exciting to see all the fun things Kimley-Horn does! My Kimley-Horn “buddy” also invited me to join a group to go to an “escape room” after work one day. It was a lot of team building and I was able to meet a few others from the office. During work, I have also attended Young Professional forums and have frequently gone to lunch with the three other interns in the office. Kimley-Horn has a great work culture!

PrimaryTag - Color JPGThis summer has flown by! However, I have learned a lot in the past few months. Not only have I improved my design skills, but I have also gained great insight on how a national civil engineering company operates. All employees work extremely hard to market for new jobs, have great service, and produce quality work. This engineering experience will help me to navigate the start of my engineering career next spring. I have enjoyed being apart of this company and am excited to apply what I have learned to future work.

INFORMAQ_Sterling_2016This summer I was working under the guidance of Dr. Lear, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) department at CSU and is also the Associate Director and a professor of the school of Biomedical engineering, and Dr. Jayasumana, a professor from the ECE department who has a focus and specializes in the Internet of Things (IoT). The project I worked on is called INFORMAQ, which stands for Information Network for Fair and Open Real-Time Monitoring of Air Quality (INFORMAQ). We have been developing and deploying sensors into the outdoor environment that can detect particle densities by using infrared LEDs. My goal and objective for this undergraduate research project was to create an air particulate monitor that can be deployed anywhere and still transmit accurate and real-time date to the public.

When I first took on the challenge of developing the air quality sensors I had only a small knowledge and understanding of how micro-controllers, like the Arduino, work, the card sized computer called the Raspberry Pi (RPi), and the UNIX operating system that it runs. This summer has really taken my knowledge of these components and my skills in electrical engineering (EE) to a new level with all the hands on learning I have done on Dr. Lear’s undergraduate research project.

Before the INFORMAQ project, I had only taken a few classes in computer science in UNIX which is an open-source and free Operation System (OS). After developing the sensor nodes for the INFORMAQ project I have learned a lot more about UNIX. The benefits of having a full blown OS is that I am able to remotely login to any of our deployed devices in the field by accessing the RPi through Secure Shell (SSH). SSH is a protocol that enables me to transfer files, execute commands and supports tunneling. Tunneling sets up a connection to a known device that I have access to here in the lab. When a node losses power and comes back online, even after an extended period of time, the devices will set up a tunnel to the lab so I will able to remotely login and troubleshoot the problem or update any code.

“My goal and objective for this undergraduate research project was to create an air particulate monitor that can be deployed anywhere and still transmit accurate and real-time date to the public.”

I have gained a wealth of knowledge about serial communications between hardware lines during my research project. Serial communication is what common USB cables use to allow devices like printers and mice to communicate with your personal computer quickly. In the project I am currently using Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (UART) to communicate between the micro-controller and the RPi. UART makes communication between hardware devices easy with only having 4 wires to hook up. The four wires are as follows: Voltage at the Common Collector (VCC) which is power, ground (GND) which is a common ground between all the devices, then there is TX and RX for transmit and receive. One tip I have learned through trial and error is just to remember to hook up your RX-to-TX and TX-to-RX this can be a common mistake even among even experienced engineers.

 

Engineering.fwIn addition to being the sole prototype designer, which utilizes my hardware skills as and EE, I have had the opportunity to expand my computer science skills by learning and implementing the Python language. Python allows me to interpret and parse the data that I am getting from the microcontroller. The Python language provides a clean and easy to read code. Python was developed as an object-oriented high-level programming language that handles data structures very efficiently because it is great for concatenation, slicing, sorting and mapping. The Python language made perfect sense for our project needs as it handles incoming data from the micro-controller. After developing a few lines of code in Python on the RPi I found a free service that would use Python from the provider AT&T. This service, called M2X, allows the sensors to connect to a highly secure time-series data storage network. The M2X service is set up for these new IoT technologies that are becoming more prevalent in modern day EE.

As we were creating a prototype that stores data, version control was essential to have for this project’s success. We used Git, a version control software, and have it linked with a repository to store all the code work done on the INFORMAQ project. Git is a free and open source version control software that allows me, and other group members that are working on this project, to develop code for our project with speed and efficiency. Git lets me develop code on any device connected to the internet and then publishes it to a shared repository like bitbucket. Git also makes it easy to integrate code developed by different users and keep track of their changes so that developers can always go back to a previous versions of the shared code in case the version has a bug.

To publish data from remote locations I learned the difference between a Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) networks and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) networks. These are networks that our cell phones carriers use to communicate with the cell towers to be able to upload and receive data. The INFORMAQ project we are using the GSM network for ease of usage because the differences are that the GSM network uses a SIM card to validate whether the user has permission to use the network. In addition, the GSM has a quad frequency band that allows more versatility in the field when installing in location that are not close to highly populated areas where internet connection is readily available.

I am currently learning more about Radio Frequency (RF) modules which transmit secure data inside of a mesh network. This allows our sensors to become more reliable and increases the redundancy if one of the sensors inside the mesh were to go down. The RF module we have chosen uses a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) architecture which allows each of the nodes within the network to interconnect with each other and share resources among each other. This is ideal for a low cost, low power, self-healing network that will extend the range or sensor nodes.

 

The INFORMAQ project uses a semiconductor device called a photo-diode and an Infrared Light Emitting Diode (IRLED) to measure the amount of dust or particulates in the air. The IRLED and the photodiode are positioned in the each of the sensor devices so that the IRLED light is reflected by the dust particles in the air. This is then received by the photodiode that takes light energy and produces an electric current in response. The photodiode operates in a circuit wired in a reverse bias which means that the current flows from the cathode (negative terminal) to the anode (positive terminal). The reason we connect photodiodes to power sources is because even in complete darkness photodiodes produce very small amounts of current by themselves in the order of magnitude of micro-amperes. This is called dark current, so when the circuit receives light and converts it to additional current it can be measured as an analog voltage. We then can correlate the amount of dust, based on the density, to the measured voltage of the photodiode.

I have learned how important signal smoothing is and a bit about how Fourier transforms work to smooth signals. One of the more important things I have learned is how to get a precise measurement on an analog device by determining the reference voltage. In the real world the voltage tends to drift off around the 5 volt mark so the reference voltage accounts for the variance of the voltage due to a circuit being under load. By accounting for the reference voltage we can get a more accurate analog readings on a micro-controller device. This is used a lot in Analog-to-Digital Converters (ADC) and other measurement tools in EE.

In addition to working with my professors I have also collaborated with Dr. Volckens and student Scott Kelleher to learn more about aerodynamics of particles. My project is supposed to deal with PM 2.5 which means particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter. These particular size particles are very damaging to human lungs and can cause health problems because they can travel past the upper respiratory track and get trapped in the lungs leading to many different health risks. The problem is that particles with the same diameters, different densities and various aerodynamic shapes will have the same settling velocities which make it harder to discriminate the different particle sizes like PM 2.5 verse PM 10. This is still a challenge our team is faced with and will continue to research and troubleshoot in order to create a solution.

Overall, I think I have gained a wealth of knowledge from working with Dr. Lear, Dr. Jayasamana and Tom Propst who will still be continuing this project during the fall semester. The goal is to get as far as we can with this project by creating a working prototype that can be manufactured in mass quantities and start writing a grant to provide more funding to develop these sensors. Our overarching goal is to ensure the general public can gain a better understanding of the air quality around them.