Final Project/Zihan Wu

Final Project

My Ferris wheel is made up of a motor part, a base, two wheels, four pots with plants, and some screws as well as some joint parts. My idea was inspired by a system applied in the hydroponic area, but now I made it a soil-based system. I want to see whether this works or not by observing the living situation of the plants. Seeing a Ferris wheel with small plants rotate must be fun, and I want to put forward an opinion that raising the plants as well as taking care of them is interesting, too.I regard my final project as a life support system for plants because once my idea comes true, the system can take care of the plants itself without our supervision. It can mainly help the plants get even light and adequate water.

My idea was inspired by a system applied in the hydroponic area, but now I made it a soil-based system. I want to see whether this works or not by observing the living situation of the plants. Seeing a Ferris wheel with small plants rotate must be fun, and I want to put forward an opinion that raising the plants as well as taking care of them is interesting, too.I regard my final project as a life support system for plants because once my idea comes true, the system can take care of the plants itself without our supervision. It can mainly help the plants get even light and adequate water.

Seeing a Ferris wheel with small plants rotate must be fun, and I want to put forward an opinion that raising the plants as well as taking care of them is interesting, too.I regard my final project as a life support system for plants because once my idea comes true, the system can take care of the plants itself without our supervision. It can mainly help the plants get even light and adequate water.

I had intended to let my final project be a life support system for plants because the system can take care of the plants itself without our supervision. It can mainly help the plants get even light and adequate water. Until now, I can only make it get even light. Maybe I will improve it later so that the plants can have adequate water automatically.

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Implementation

First, I talked with Professor Mikesell about the idea to make the Ferris wheel rotate by using a motor. He told me this would be accessible. Before I started, I searched the equipment in IMA website and found this:

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And professor Mikesell said that he could get one for me. Besides, he helped me improve it:

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Then I started to make the frame of the two wheels and the base. I decided to 3D print them first, so I made the first version, using 123D Design. I searched some information about how a Ferris wheel looks like and then got this:

ferris_wheel

And thus I made my own design followed by the shape and this took me some time since it was really important to control the size and structure so that it would not be so fragile. Finally, I made these:

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However, considering that if the wheels are not strong enough, they might be broken when I place four pots on them, so I decided to laser cut them instead. Professor Mikesell told me that I need to change the file as .SVG so that it can be laser cut. Then I use Ai to draw the frame again:

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Eventually, I got these:

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Meanwhile, I also purchased the pots and the screws online:

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Now it seemed that I gathered all the materials I needed successfully. And till now, everything was good and the process was smooth. However, when I started to assemble them together, lots of problems arose. The first one was the electric wire of the motor left the motor. This was the easiest one to solve, and I only needed some hot glue to stick it back. The second one was one side of the base was broken and I used the glue to deal with this as well. The only difference was that this time I used the strong glue. The third one was the holes of the wheel were too small that I could not connect them with the motor part. Neither can I insert the screws, so I used the drill to enlarge the holes. The fourth one was the pots were still too large, though I bought the tiny ones on purpose. After observing this problem, I immediately ordered the smallest pots I could see on Taobao… (These were the main problems, and there were countless problems happening then.)

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What I have learned

After making my final project, I knew a lot of skills, primarily. I knew how to drill, how to master 123D Design, how to use the laser cutter, how to use the 3D printer and how to make things stable. Besides, the most important part was that I learned how to face the problems. There must be new problems appearing and I should be calm while figuring out possible ways to solve them.

I also learned that I should test my ideas first before making the real model since it would waste a lot of materials. In our class presentation, the ordered smaller pots had not arrived yet, so I improved my Ferris wheel later on. Another improvement I want to make is adding a new system to water the plants automatically, which was put forward by my final proposal.

Final proposal/Zihan Wu

Conceptual Development

During one class of the second half semester, I learned something special in Hydroponic system. In order to make the plants get even light, one put the light source in the center of the wheel and then place all the plants on the wheel. By rotating the wheel at a stable speed, the plants can live happily with adequate light. And thus when I started thinking about my final project, I decided to realize this kind of thought to make plants get even things including light as well as water. One day, when I was browsing the website, I saw something like this:

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ferris-wheel-2

Although this stuff could only rotate manually, I still got some insights from it. Then I made up my mind to make a Ferris wheel that can rotate automatically. Besides, I will make it rotate at a certain speed and place a tube on the top of it. By setting the time period and combine the tube with a water pump, all the plants can get water at some intervals (mainly depending on what kind of plants I am going to use). Primarily, it must be very interesting, I suppose.


Technical Implementation

First, I was wondering how to solve the problem to make my Ferris wheel rotate automatically. I put forward an idea to use a motor to drive the two wheels. Though there might be a new question about whether it can rotate stably or whether it can rotate at a certain speed. During this process, I asked one of my friends, Jerry, who was taking Interaction Lab. He told me that by using Arduino, we could make the motor rotating at a stable speed, so I ensured that I would use the motor to deal with the first problem.

Then the next thing was how to frame my Ferris wheel. I had intended to use the 3D printer or the laser cutter. Since I had used neither of them, I decided to 3D print the base and then laser cut the wheels.

Another thing was that how to hang the pots on the wheel. Maybe using some wires was a good choice. If this did not work, then I would think of some other ways like using some screws.

Since there was a size limit, the pots I would choose should not be too large, so I might purchase some small pots on Taobao.

The last thing was about the plants. For my project was supposed to help the plants get even light, so if I placed some of the plants that did not need much light, then my project would be meaningless. Eventually, Professor Mikesell suggested that I should use the cuttings near the window of the art studio.


“Life Support System for Plants”

I regard my final project as a life support system for plants because once my idea comes true, the system can take care of the plants itself without our supervision. It can mainly help the plants get even light and adequate water.

Besides, my idea was inspired by a system applied in the hydroponic area, but now I would probably make it a soil-based system. I want to see whether this works or not.

Last but not least, seeing a Ferris wheel with small plants must be fun, and I want to put forward an opinion that raising the plants as well as taking care of them is interesting, too.

Microgreens/Zihan Wu

In this class, we made fun of planting some microgreens. First, Professor Mikesell gave us some containers and some special paper. Then we cut the paper so that everyone could have one. However, when I started dripping water on it, it was then broken since it was so fragile. Fortunately, the broken part was not so large, so I stuck it back to its original place. Besides, the names of the seeds were very interesting. One is called Basic Salad Mix, the other is Beet. After scattering some of them, we sealed the containers with plastic wrap and then put them into our farm.

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Building humidity and mister control/Zihan Wu

In this class, the professor asked us to build a humidity and mister control unit, using Arduino. And thus we can know the humidity level of the plants. Besides, the data can be written by us every day so that we can monitor the change happening within our farm.

First, Professor Mikesell divided our class into two groups. Since I have learned little about Arduino, so the professor let me in the group with ZZ and Richard who are very professional. They introduced a lot of information about the Arduino kit as well as different sensors to me. Then we assembled two circuit boards together because one Arduino board could not provide enough pins for the LED screen. After connecting the circuit to the sensor and revising the code, we make all of them work. However, there were a lot of strange things showing on the board then. ZZ and Richard changed our boards but the problem persisted.

And in next class, the professor told us that the problem was that there was something wrong with the code.

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Atlas Scientific/Zihan Wu

Atlas Scientific is a company designing sensors and components that are used by robots. In their own words, they are empowering the engineer to add the capabilities of many individual devices into a single robot. Their devices can test pH, ORP, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, flow, and temperature in an accurate way. They are striving for accuracy, repeatability, precision and ease of use. Besides, they are deadly serious about producing high-quality components. Moreover, Atlas Scientific engineers make sure their products undergo rigorous testing.

Response to reading: Gardening Indoors/Zihan Wu

Explain “active” vs “passive” systems.

Passive systems rely on capillary action to transfer the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the growing medium.

Active hydroponic systems actively move the nutrient solution.

Examples of active systems are: flood and drain, and top feed. Fast-growing plants are very well suited to active hydroponic systems.

 

Explain how an ebb and flow system, air table, deep water culture and NFT systems work.

Ebb and flow system: individual plants in pots or rockwool cubes are set on a special table. The table is a growing bed that can hold one to four inches of nutrient solution. When the nutrient solution reaches a set level, the excess is drawn back to the reservoir and new air comes to the roots again. The circle is repeated several times a day.

Air table: air is pumped into a reservoir filled with nutrient solution. The nutrient solution is forced up to the growing bed with air pressure generated by an external air pump.

Deep water culture: seedlings and cuttings are held in net pots full of expanded clay pellets, rockwool or other growing medium. A submersible pump lifts nutrient solution to the top of a discharge tube where it splashes into the access lid. These gardens require no timer because the pumps are on 24 hours a day.

NFT system: high performance gardens that perform well when fine-tuned. This relatively new form of hydroponics supplies aerated nutrient solution to roots located in gulleys. Irrigation is most often constant, 24 hours a day.

What does it mean for a growing medium to be “inert” and why is it important for the health of your garden? 

 

Inert growing medium does not react with living organisms or chemicals to change the integrity of the nutrient solution. It is important for the health of the garden since inert growing medium will not interfere nutrients in the growing solution so that growers can greatly control the use of nutrients for the plants.

 

Assembling NFT system/Zihan Wu

On November 8th, we assembled hydroponic NFT system in the farm. First, we started setting up the PVC structure. Although it was easy to understand the Chinese on the instructions, it was rather difficult to finish the job according to the pictures and the Chinese on the instructions are useless. Besides, the sample model on the sheet didn’t match with the model we were building, so we only use own wisdom to build up the whole structure. ZZ taped the part where the plastic tube goes into the PVC tube for water running inside so that it wouldn’t leak. After that, we plugged the pump and made a test run:

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While we were dealing with the PVC structure, Sara was putting basil seed into the cubes. Jimmy was drilling 3 holes on a 30L container so that we can put three sensors detecting pH, PPM, and EC inside:

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Then we filled the tank with water. Richard and ZZ poured all three bottles of the plant nutrients came with the kit. According to the ratio,they poured all the nutrients into the 30L water tank since  the nutrient to water ratio was 20ml to 10L, and each bottle was 60ml:

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Finally, we started dealing with the lighting problem. We placed the light panel on the upper part of the blue stack and moved the blue rack in front of the NFT system, using zip-ties to create an angle so that all the seeds inside the holes could get the light:

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Is it possible to grow potatoes on Mars?—-Zihan Wu

After watching the film The Martian, I search some information about whether it is possible to grow potatoes on Mars. According to Paul Rodgers, scientists in the Netherlands have successfully raised more than ten different crops, including potatoes, in simulated Martian dirt. The Dutch researchers mixed their extra-terrestrial “earth” with organic fertilizer, just like the fictional Mark Watney, though he used human feces to give his spuds a head start. In addition to high levels of oxidized iron (which gives the planet its characteristic color), the Martian surface also contains cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and arsenic. Initial tests on peas, tomatoes, rye, and radishes showed they were all within normal ranges, and in some cases, the peas and tomatoes actually had lower levels than the control plants grown in regular potting soil.

Lab: Building a mushroom cultivation box/Zihan Wu

In this lab, we first sterilized the coffee grounds with hydrogen peroxide and water, and the ration was 1:10:

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Meanwhile, we sterilized another container and made holes at the bottom for water to come out as well as on the top for air to flow in. Besides, we also cut the mycelium part from the mushrooms:

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After that, we put the sterilized coffee grounds at the bottom of the container and mycelium on them. Then we placed another thinner layer of coffee grounds on the mycelium again, in order to make it grow faster:

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Finally, we moved the whole box to our farm. It was then placed in the greenhouse which would create a moist and damp environment for the mushrooms to live in:

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I think this lab is very interesting and for the first time, I notice how lovely the mushrooms are! Meanwhile, I know more about the mycelium : )

Response to Ecovative and Philip Ross/Zihan Wu

The best part of this project is that it makes full use of the mushroom materials that are high performing, cost competitive, home compostable, rapidly renewable, custom designed and molded, not derived from petroleum or food, naturally fire resistant, VOC free, buoyant and fine-tunable to meet our needs. It can have a positive impact on our planet’s ecosystem. From my perspective, it is wonderful that this project can have various methods to deal with agricultural waste. Moreover, it combines mycelium with agricultural together which can create mushroom materials. It is an amazing idea to work like this, and I suppose this is definitely environmental friendly and economical.

Of all the featured materials, I find the most interesting one is the MycoBoard. They are grown using mycelium – “nature’s glue” – which is formaldehyde-free, safe, and healthy and produces panels that are strong, machinable and fire-resistant. This makes MycoBoard panels an ideal solution for the home, office, or school. In Case Studies, the leading provider of private office furniture, collaborated with Ecovative to create a sustainable alternative for the outside seat back of their newest product introduction. Just imagining that we are sitting on a chair made from mycelium, then we will have the sense of curiosity to figure out how it works.  In this exploring way, we can find more happiness in this project.