Protector of Classroom Fish Everywhere
It can be a real problem for schools to keep up with aquariums because of busy class schedules. Teachers can get really busy and may not have a way to properly care for fish during long breaks. To learn more about this problem, we created a survey using Survey Monkey. 86 teachers responded across Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio & Pennsylvania. We learned that the most common classroom fish is the angelfish. Teachers reported that it is difficult to test pH, ammonia and nitrate levels regularly and that there fish tanks often develop algae. Many teachers also reported not having a reliable plan in place for the safe, consistent care of classroom fish during long breaks.
According to the American Aquarium Products, PETA & The Florida Aquarium, the number one cause of stress for aquarium fish is improper care. It creates a very harmful environment for the fish when a tank's pH, ammonia and nitrate levels are not regularly tested and fixed.
In order to better understand this problem, we met with local teachers to learn why proper care is such an issue. We heard its hard to include daily care in the curriculum even though the aquarium is often required. We met with a Water Quality Specialist at the Audubon Aquarium to learn more about automated systems. We conducted an extensive Google & patent search of products to monitor and correct the entire aquarium environment. While there are products available to do individual parts manually, we could not find any fully automated systems. We located a company in Russia called Cyber Plant that created something similar for hydroponics. What is needed is a fully automated system to maintain the chemistry necessary for a healthy aquarium.
We skyped with Dr. Findley at ULM and met with Dr. Sommerfeld at SLU to learn more about pH and its effect on fish. In the process of building our prototype, we had to find a way to mount our float switch. We used Autodesk Inventor to design a float switch mount in the CAD software that attaches to a suction cup. We then printed our mount on our mentor's 3D printer. We built our Guardian Angel prototype around the micro controller Arduino. We use a pH probe made for use with Arduino to read the pH level present in the aquarium water. We use three peristaltic pumps to move our pH adjustment solutions and reserve water. With the help of our mentors from Hammond High's FRC #2080 Torbotics, we programmed the Arduino to dispense necessary adjustment solution to raise or lower the pH based on the reading from the probe. Next we added code to read the float switch and pump reserve water when it reads low.
We have presented the Guardian Angel to multiple individuals and groups this season. In particular, we have met with professionals and community leaders at the Sunrisers Rotary Club, Hammond Rotary Club, Hammond Kiwanis Club, Ponchatoula Kiwanis Club and Grow Tangi STEM Coalition. We presented to educators within LEEC and the Louisiana Green School Youth Summit. We have received great feedback to move forward with the production of the entire system.
We have been working with Patent Dive in New Orleans to secure a provisional patent for Guardian Angel. Our patent will fall under the heading of "process." While we're using parts made by other companies, our process is original. We would like to continue development of our solution to add ammonia and nitrate correction and automatic feeder. We also want to include an underwater camera and have the system linked to a smart phone. Now that our Provisional Patent has been secured, we can move forward with our marketing campaign.
As the Guardian Angel continues to develop, we will use this page to share our progress. In the meantime, we would like to thank the following agencies and individuals for their assistance during the development phase of our project this season.
Audubon Aquarium of the Americas
Dr. Gary Findley, Chemistry Department ULM
Venise Ortego, Louisiana Environmental Education Commission
Dr. Thomas Sommerfeld, Chemistry Department SLU
Survey Monkey Project Support
Torbotics FRC #2080
Wesley Foundation @ SLU
5 Stones Media