Like all hackathons we had very limited time to think of a project, build and program it, so without any time to waste, as a team, we started brainstorming ideas, and thinking about problems that needed to be solved. Our ideas ranged from intelligent coat hangers, which would suggest what to wear depending on the weather, to home surveillance devices that would automatically inform the council whenever minor public offenses were committed within the neighborhood.
In the end, we decided to build an intelligent trash can (aka rubbish bin) that we called "Wastr". The idea behind creating a "smart" bin was to raise awareness of how much trash is thrown away. By giving people some feedback right from the trash can itself, we could encourage them to reduce the amount of trash they dispose of. This might not have a huge impact overall, but we felt that if it helped raise awareness, and thus foster a “green” mindset among consumers, it would be well worth the effort.
"Wastr" works by utilizing sensors, which continuously monitor the bin, allowing the owner to see how full it is, as well as keep tabs on how often the bin is emptied, and keep track of the accumulated total volume of trash discarded over time.
Some of the tasks we undertook to make our bin, "smart" included:
- Hacking the digital scale to monitor the weight of the bin, so that it records the weight of the trash every time a trash bag is removed and discarded.
- Placing a light sensor at the bottom of the bin to indicate that the trash bag is full.
- Saving data from the scales for synchronization with the smartphone app.
- Adding a Twitter notification feature that continuously informs followers whenever the bin is full. Notifications only stop when the bin is emptied. We decided that pester power combined with public shaming via social media would be very powerful motivators!
One of the greatest challenges we faced during the project was the poor documentation that came with the hardware. To get around this we had to hack the BLE shield to make it communicate with the board it was designed to work with. Even though it was only a jumper wire to connect some pins on the shield, it still was quite confusing, because none of the online examples worked without this fix (more on this will be included within future posts).
As previously mentioned, the IOT//EDI Hackathon ran alongside the IoT//EDI Conference, so throughout the second day, conference attendees and delegates dropped by to check on our progress and view our projects. Everyone we met seemed interested in what we were doing, and couple of guys even gave us some valuable advice, which was greatly appreciated!
The hackathon came to an abrupt end at 5pm sharp, so we had to down tools and immediately stop working on our projects. It was time for pitches and judging!
Rather than just provide a verbal explanation, we decided to incorporate a practicle demonstration into our pitch, so that the judges could actually see how Wastr works, and hopefully understand the value we were adding. The demo turned out to be a huge success, as it showed how data could be sent to and from the trash can via the smartphone app. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to connect our app with Twitter, but it would have been fun!
Although trash is not the most exciting topic, I think we did a great job of making our project standout. Competing projects on the day included a home automation device and a "smart" plant irrigation/garden watering solution.
After we all received a serious grilling from the judges, a winner was selected, which turned out to be us! I think we won because, as a team, we managed to successfully defend our idea, and prove it’s worthiness, so it was a well deserved victory in my opinion.
In addition to winning the IOT//EDI Hardware Hackthon, our project was featured by Rory Gianni (@digitalWestie) within a presentation he gave at the Edinburgh EcoHack!
As we were so busy working on our projects we were unfortunately unable to attend the conference. I am, however, pleased to report that they were filmed and have been uploaded to the conference website.
Once again, I wanted to thank my team-mates Marijonas, Dovile and Erin for doing a great job, and of course Simon Montford (@simonmontford), who organized the conference and invited us to the hackathon. Thanks, and hope to see you all at future hackathons.
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