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NAU Research Greenhouse Sensors

The Client

  The client who proposed the Research Greenhouse project is Adair Patterson. In 2014, she graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She started working in the Research Greenhouse shortly after graduation and began working with multiple departments and disciplines to assist with their research. Some notable projects that have come from the greenhouses are: working with the NAU Biology department to research plant-fungal ecology, assisting the Restoration Institute in reviving plant populations that have been on the decline, and lastly working with Federal Agencies on researching how to reestablishing native species after wildfires. Recently, Ms. Patterson took over as the acting Laboratory and Research Facility Manager and proposed the current project to the Engineering department.

The Problem

  Each of the eight greenhouses supports several different research projects simultaneously from diverse customers such as students, NAU researchers, and external customers. The greenhouses have control systems installed for regulating temperature and humidity to prevent them from reaching critical levels. The monitoring system is built into the control system, with a small 1 x 3 LED screen that can display the temperature or humidity level. To get the small LED screen, you must open up the circuit box for the control system, which needs a master key. As it stands, the monitoring system is too inconveniently located for real-time monitoring. As seen in the Figure below, the Temperature Control Cabinet, the temperature control box is a large system that maintains the balance of temperature and humidity inside of the greenhouses. Customers typically need a record of the temperature and humidity for their projects, but it cannot be provided without being at the greenhouse in person and making a record of past readings. There have been past projects that also need a record of the light level, however, there was not a system in place that could do so. Future projects will also use high humidity enclosures inside the greenhouse and there is not a monitoring system that can be placed inside of an enclosure to measure the humidity.

temperature control sensor cabinet

Temperature Control Sensor Cabinet

sensor box for exisiting cabinet

Existing Sensor Box

Project Update

  The project is completed. the semester is nearing the end, there is the week before finals. The most important requirement of this project given to us by our client was to produce waterproof sensor circuits that collect data on Light, Humidity, and Temperature. This collected data was to be made available for our client to view from outside the Research Greenhouse Complex. The result of our project is wireless and solar powered sensor modules that can collect the required data from the greenhouse accurately and precisely.

Last Updated: April 20th, 2021