The Consumer Sustainability Analytics project originated from a hackathon submission, called PullMeNot. The idea behind this project was to track paper towel usage in buildings, and make users of the device aware of their environmental footprint, in hopes to reduce the usage of paper towels.
The PullMeNot team consisted of members from the Inter-Disciplinary Entrepreneurship Association, IdEA. While I was one of the creators of the original idea, I was unable to attend the hackathon, although I did give some technical advice before the competition. My role began after the hackathon, as we decided to take the idea further and develop it into a product.
Here is IdEA’s page on the PullMeNot/CSA project: http://ideasfu.ca/projects/csa/
I was the hardware lead for the CSA project, responsible for designing and building the prototype, selecting components, and creating documentation such as a bill of materials. I worked closely with Steven Huang, our rockstar Computer Science student on this project. Here are some of the components I was responsible for selecting:
- Power supply
- Hall effect sensor
- LCD display
- WiFi module
Our choice of WiFi module, the ESP 8266 led to the creation of a very integrated system, as the 8266 has a microcontroller on board.
I was also responsible for designing a PCB for prototype #2. The main board had to be able to accept a variety of sensors and power inputs, as the idea was to make the system modular so that more than just paper towel usage could be tracked. The system was designed to be adaptable to track anything with the addition of different sensors. Water usage, people movement, and more. Additionally, system design in terms of components like the power supply, was done to ensure that custodial staff could maintain the installation, and it would remain safe for users.
Schematic capture and board layout was done in EAGLE. A variety of footprints had to be created for the board, and it was an excellent learning experience. The boards were then manufactured overseas. Unfortunately, prototype #2 was never fully deployed, as the project was shelved to make time for school projects.
An explanation of the idea is also available in this article, from The Peak: http://www.the-peak.ca/2015/05/student-entrepreneurs-hack-their-way-to-sustainability/
Because of IdEA’s close ties with SFU, we were able to get permission to install the system in a pilot project at SFU Surrey. The timeline for the pilot project did not allow for the PCB prototype #2 to be used, but data was collected by the system and could be used for further iterations. My technical input in this project was the following:
- system design (WiFi module coupled with hall effect sensor, etc)
- power supply selection
- other hardware selection (hall effect sensor, etc)
The backend software for the system deployed in the pilot project was written by Steven, using Django and Freeboard. During development of prototype #2, I wrote software for the ESP 8266, to count paper towel pulls and display data on the LCD.
While the prototype #2 that I had so much input on was never deployed, the pilot project was useful in determining the target market for a system like this. I proud to have been a part of the team to create the hardware for the pilot, and happy to have helped design a system with an environmental focus, and to work with an amazing team while doing so.