Replacing manual data collection techniques in physics and chemistry labs with electronic sensors.

LabSense Device - Final Project Submission

-Mark DeCesare and Mrinal Kanwar


Today's methods of performing experiments in chemistry and physics labs are highly tedious and time consuming. Recording data is usually done via manual techniques which leads to inaccurate measurement and inefficiency. Our device, LabSense, serves to bring forth a new method of data collection in high school and college science labs. LabSense is network of sensors (Accelerometer, Waterproof Temperature and Color) that can be used to accurately collect experimental results in experiments ranging from newtonian motion to acid-base titration. The accelerometer enables students to measure speed and acceleration values without the need of a stopwatch or other error-prone devices, the digital temperature sensor eliminates the need for awkward attempts at reading thermometer values, and the color sensor provides information on color-changes in specific chemistry experiments. The values from these sensors are conveyed onto the online platform, ThingSpeak, so that it is easy for students to view and analyze the collected data, as well as compare their values with those of their classmates.

The target audience for LabSense is chemistry and physics labs at high schools and colleges. LabSense will prevent schools from having to buy numerous measuring instruments, such as stopwatches and thermometers, for every laboratory classroom. Overall, LabSense is an all-in-one device that is extremely useful for many scientific experiments. High schools and colleges are in need of an upgrade from old measuring techniques, and LabSense fills this need effectively.

Technical Description

We started the project by using and testing the individual sensors with the arduino. We got Sparkfun’s waterproof Temperature Sensor - (DS18B20) to measure temperature readings and convert them into values in Degrees Celsius by studying the data-sheet of the sensor, as well as using appropriate provided libraries. Similarly, we set up the adafruit ‘TCS34725’ Color Sensor (Using Digital Pin 2 and 3 which have SDA and SCL capabilities respectively) and got it to read in RGB and color lux (brightness) values. The raw data was in a hexadecimal form (with max value 65535), so we mapped it to a scale of 0 - 255 (the regular convention for color). Finally, the accelerometer was set-up in analog pins 0-5, and we built off the ‘pedometer lab’ to get it to convey total acceleration magnitude readings. We also converted the raw values into a ‘m/s2’ form, using an experimental formula. The accelerometer is reset and calibrated via the use of a button (active high switch) in digital pin 7. Then, we integrated the codes for all 3 sensors into one file, and tested them simultaneously by using printing their values onto the serial port.

After having the sensors convey meaningful values to the arduino, we initiated a connection with ThingSpeak using the ethernet cable, ThingSpeak key, and appropriate mac address, and managed to have our values be sent, graphed and analyzed in the website. ThingSpeak serves as a crucial element of LabSense, since it not only allows students to access their data easily, but also allows them to compare their data with that of their classmates, since ThingSpeak channels can be made public. This comparison is very useful in lab-setups.

Since LabSense can be used for a host of physics and chemistry experiments, we invested time in building a sturdy, yet easy-to-use case for it. We cut a thick wooden frame using a compound miter saw and a table saw, and spray painted it silver. We added foam cushioning with slits, so that the arduino board, ethernet shield, and breadboard could be placed securely inside. Then, we made 6 holes in the frame to insert screws which would serve as a wrap-around system for the temperature sensor, as well as 4 wheels that allow the device to move easily (so that it can be appropriately used in experiments regarding acceleration). Finally, we added a sliding metal top with holes that allow the user to access the button, as well as allow the color sensor to receive light.

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