Remote Sensor Monitoring
of Copeland Creek Water Quality

Supervised by Dr. Farid Farahmand and Dr. Don Estreich
SSU Department of Engineering

Advice Provided by:
Dr. Steve Farmer, SSU Chemistry Department
Dr. Mohammad Haider, SSU Department of Engineering
Dr. Claudia Luke, SSU Field Stations & Nature Preserves
Dr. Jeremy Qualls, SSU Physics Department

Dr. Farid Farahmand

Description of Project: What?

From fall of 2010 to spring of 2011, students in Dr. Farid Farahmand's Engineering Science Senior Design Project Planning classes (ES 491 and ES 492) developed a sensor platform that could remotely monitor water quality in Copeland Creek. Students hoped to gain a better understanding of the impact the University has on the Creek, and used sensors to measure, record, and transmit information about pH, water level, water temperature, and other parameters at each Creek monitoring site.

Students' data was complemented by data gathered manually by students in Dr. Michael Cohen's Environmental Microbiology class and in Dr. Mark Perri's Honors Chemistry class.

Location of sensors by Environmental Technology Center

Figure 1. Location of sensors adjacent to the Environmental
Techonology Center and the Anthropological Studies Center.

Description of Project: So What?

Learning objectives mapped directly to the service and included the following:

  1. Design and develop a combined hardware/software system to meet a client's specifications—An example of a "combined hardware/software system" was the computer graphical interface student Chia-Chen Wei designed to display water quality parameters.

  2. Integrate knowledge from across the core curriculum—The remote sensor project required students to design an application that would work in a challenging real-world environment (i.e., in a creek). To succeed, students needed to apply skills and knowledge learned in their other engineering classes. According to Dr. Farahmand, the project represented "a combination of every single engineering course that students have taken." (See Academic Achievement.)

  3. Work productively in a team environment—Students were required to collaborate with each other, with a client, and with students in other engineering classes to define project specifications, to build parts, and/or to solve problems. Dr. Farahmand explained that, “Students learn about mentoring.... They learn about defining a project. They learn about how difficult it is to actually assign something to someone else."

    In reflecting on their project, students mentioned that working "productively in a team environment" was especially important because they knew they wouldn't finish the project if they didn't work well together. Senior Design student Adrian Fierros said that, “With one mind you can only go in a certain direction, but with two you can bounce different ideas off of each other and see which one [idea] works better.... Ever since we started doing that we’ve been working a lot better and more efficiently.”

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“With one mind you can only go in a certain direction, but with two you can bounce different ideas off of each other and see which one [idea]
works better.... Ever since we started doing that we’ve been
working a lot better and more efficiently.”
—Adrian Fierros, Senior Design Project student

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Description of Project: Now What?

Students concluded that, at project's end, they had successfully created a water quality monitoring device that met design specifications, i.e., that was self-powered, Internet accessible, reliable, affordable, able to withstand harsh environmental conditions, easy to use and troubleshoot, and energy-efficient.

Students also achieved a larger goal, which was to develop a technology that could be used for multiple applications. (For an example of a new application of the remote sensor monitoring technology, see Saving Water at SSU.)


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"This way... you go beyond laboratory environments. You see how engineers impact the environment, how they impact real lives.
That understanding is very critical."
--Dr. Farid Farahmand

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