Solar Powered Community Fridge: University of Illinois Chicago Communal Fridge

The team & stakeholders consider the project completed. Tests of the solar array were done under conditions to mimic the weather of Chicago, materials were bought, & with the help of Love Fridge Chicago, the structure was built at Patchworks Farms.
Added by Joehdownie Joehdownie 2 months ago

The documents attached include the final Build Day report, our total budget and spending, and relevant photos throughout the entire process.


NU - SmartTree: Spring 2023 Update

Added by Thomas Hoang 3 months ago

During this spring quarter, SmartTree mainly focused on the construction side of things as we finished up the base pieces and started planning and constructing the solar panels' support system.

We encountered a few problems with our current design choice for solar panel support. From the exploded view of the current model seen below, we initially planned to have three poles converging into a platform, which will house the connection system of our solar panels. However, this approach made unnecessary choices that hindered the support capability as well as made it more difficult to construct, namely the diagonal angle of the pole.

As such, we decided to switch the design to something a bit more simple yet effective in supporting the solar panels. After a lot of brainstorming sessions and consulting with the shop professionals, we have arrived at the design shown in the sketch below. The new design has 3 straight standing poles, connecting beams, and potentially a small garden at the top of SmartTree. This design would also allow an additional solar panel to be present in the electrical system, increasing the power output!

We have settled on this new design and had wished to start construction as soon as possible. However, the materials took longer to arrive than anticipated, so in the meantime, we start on the treatment of wood in the base pieces. This includes staining and varnishing to ensure water resistivity and rot resistance. By the end of the school year, we had completed 2 out of 4 base pieces and will plan to finish the job next quarter.

We also finished up some small construction jobs such as routering the top lid, adding the rubber seal, and water-jetting pole mounting plates in preparation for the new materials to arrive. On the electrical side, we are designing a waterproof box to house all the electrical equipment, which will also be finalized by next quarter.

We have a lot of things planned for the near future and will try to complete the first prototype of SmartTree very soon. Be on the lookout for future updates!

NU - Green Wall: Spring 2023 Update

Added by Cameron Moore 3 months ago

Green Wall Progress From Spring 2023

In the Spring Quarter, Green Wall made great progress on our project. After many iterations, we have settled on a final design concept. The basic concept consists of 5 grow beds vertically stacked on top of each other. These grow beds are designed to allow for the easy removal of plants allowing for effective maintenance of our systems. Water will be filtered and recirculated through the system, drastically reducing the water demand of the system. Our updated CAD model is shown below.

To go along with our 5 grow bed design, we have also created a plant list. When deciding on our plants, we aimed to choose ones that balance hardiness and aesthetics. The lower grow beds will include larger shrubs such as juniper and laurel while the upper grow beds will include lighter plants such as pachysandra and vines. Moreover, in the center grow bed, we will be growing edible plants including plants and onions!

We plan to begin construction of the wall next fall with the goal to eventually plant in the Spring. We will begin next quarter with prototyping our planters. We have secured our first grant to begin construction and are currently working with facilities to find the best spot for our wall.

Moving into next year, we are excited to announce our sub-team leaders for next year: Lynna Deng for botany, Luke Simmons for construction, and Emi Saegusa and Kyan Shlipak for plumbing.

Project managers Cameron Moore and Ellie Lind are extremely happy with the progress we’ve made this year and are looking forward to what next year brings!

Have a great summer!

NU - AutoAquaponics: Spring 2023 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Spring of 2023
Added by Lester Tai 4 months ago

This Spring quarter was a season of change and growth for AutoAquaponics – and one filled with so many proud moments.

If you are new to this blog, have a look at this recent video story from Sarah Aie of The Daily Northwestern outlining the history and future of AutoAquaponics, featuring co-project managers Lester Tai and Marcos Sanchez as well as ESW co-president Yanni Wilcox .


Our plumbing team made many necessary improvements to optimize current solutions in the physical system. We also have some exciting new projects in the works!

Our sump tank and filter bottles were fitted with laser-cut, acrylic lids to prevent evaporation of water in the system. This will reduce the number of laborious sump tank top-offs that our team needs to do.

To prevent the infiltration of hazardous pathogens, we started the design and construction of a UV light filter to be attached after our 3-stage filtration process. We constructed a prototype, but we will need to adjust the residence time to achieve a contact time of 10 seconds by potentially increasing the pipe diameter of its housing.

After experimenting with a bell siphon idea, we ultimately decided on a U-siphon made of PVC pipes to create a greater difference in water levels when flooding and draining the bottom grow bed.

Due to the plumbing team’s sheer number of projects, creating adjustable light fixtures for the top growbed was outsourced to a Northwestern DTC team, led by our very own Kyan Shlipak, to dedicate a quarter to finding a solution. And find a solution they did!

The VertiGrow was completed and successfully raised grow lights according to the needs of the plants growing in the beds. We’re extremely proud of this team for constructing a working prototype! They’ll be adding improvements later in the Fall, so be sure to keep an eye out for them!

The biggest feat that our plumbing team completed was a full redesign of the membrane filtration process! We came to the conclusion that our current membrane filter did not facilitate removal nor the cleaning of filter pads and also allowed for some particles to pass through. For this reason, our team redesigned the membrane filter. Construction will begin in the Fall with the addition of new funds.


On the software side, we finalized user authentication and added a login page to our website. Incoming users will request an account to make modifications towards the remote system:

Recent updates to the control panel and Raspberry Pi code mean user inputted values are sent to our database to be read by the Raspberry Pi automating our system. Now that the RPi code is streamlined, the RPi can easily be phased out and functionally replaced with an ESP32 in the future:

We also made our website even more beautiful by adding animation features, a responsive design, and useful error checking messages to our UI.

And toast notifications:

New, subtler features include adding Firebase App Check to protect the backend from being tampered with by fraudulent clients, fixes to Google Analytics, and a README file.


Our electronics team kept up with the latest software developments by developing a printed circuit board (PCB) to replace the sensor box components currently hooked up to the Raspberry Pi interacting with our database. The latest update to the sensor box includes a new distance sensor.

Preparing the sensor box for the new PCB….

We also started work on a colorimeter this quarter that will be used to detect the precise color of our nitrate tests! Unfortunately, the project ran into some trouble with the color sensor, so next quarter, we’ll be starting up with a new color sensor that can output precise values.

Intense discussion on how to adjust RGB values to output the correct color

Tinkering with the colorimeter code

As an update to the previous quarter, we have working timers in our outlet box code, requiring some further integration with existing code to allow for bluetooth connectivity. Finally, we have made progress on streaming video of our system on our website. The code for our ESP32-CAM requires implementation in our system and automatic window cleaning robot.


In preparation for an exciting end-of-quarter harvest day open to the Northwestern community, our biology team added scallions, leeks, and basil to our already exciting lineup of plants.

Conducting water tests for plant checkups:

To accommodate new additions, we expanded plant growth to our upper growbed and rearranged larger plants here to prevent crowding.

Preparing grow cubes for plants:

Due to the Camallanus worm infection from the previous quarter, our tiger barb had to be euthanized with clove oil. However, it was the last fish to be infected, and our remaining fish in the system are healthy. The biology team finished preparing the quarantine tank to settle new fish into the system. Get ready for new life this coming Fall!


AutoAquaponics members know how to enjoy themselves after a hard day’s work. Have a look at these pictures from some of our socials:

Chilling in the pool at the Norris Aquatics Center:

Fay-ling Laures , Lynna Deng , and Marcos Sanchez prepare a wheatgrass smoothie during ESW’s harvest day during engineering week (E-week) at McCormick:

Members of the Northwestern community receive a tour of the AutoAquaponics system:

The software team has a senior send-off dinner at Todoroki in downtown Evanston. Thanks Ben Caterine , Bill Yen , and Edward Lee !

As we neared the final weeks of the quarter, the AutoAquaponics project group secured a grant from the McCormick Student Advisory Board (MSAB), which is exciting news for our projects to be continued in the Fall!

Thank you!

With heavy hearts, we will also be saying goodbye this quarter to our wonderful seniors and our faculty advisor, Professor Harold Kung .

Professor Kung retired at the end of this year, so ESW-NU exec decided to give him a parting gift for serving our chapter for nearly 15 years. We are eternally grateful and wish him the best in retirement!

We officially said goodbye to 5 graduating seniors this year: Bill Yen , Niv Landau , Alejandra Almonte , Ben Caterine , and Edward Lee . 3 of our seniors, Raymonde Council , Aymen Lamsahel , and Johnny Chen will be returning in the fall to pursue graduate degrees or complete a minor at Northwestern. All contributed not only their minds to the project, but they contributed their hearts to the team.

A few seniors pursuing graduate degrees and most of our graduating seniors pictured below: Johnny, Alejandra, Bill, Ben, and Ray. (peep Sandra’s guest appearance!)

Niv Landau

Niv was a dedicated member of the electronics team. He has been with AutoAquaponics from the very beginning, working towards the effective implementation of our sensor and outlet box. He also bravely faced the most daunting beast of the electronics team: the outlet box code. He’s our beloved trooper and resident Florida Man. We wish him the best of luck beyond Northwestern and will miss him dearly!

Alejandra Almonte

While Alejandra joined our electronics team relatively recently, she still found her niche and fulfilled it well. While on the team, she worked on implementing a new distance sensor and preventing the frequent water damage faced by sensors in the sump tank. Her energetic personality charged up the team to advance forward, inspiring people to do their best work. Alejandra was always there to bring people together towards a common goal; for this, we will miss her and her demeanor dearly! We wish her well on her travels and furthering her education!

Edward Lee

Edward is a longtime friend of Bill’s who earlier transferred to Northwestern. When Edward arrived at the school, Bill made sure to recruit him to AutoAquaponics over a lunch reunion – we know talent when we see it! Edward has played a large role in setting up our database, making a great-looking front-end, and providing any assistance to other software team members with warm welcome. If there’s one thing better than his software development skills, it’s his dance moves on Dillo Day. Thanks for being such a serious and funny guy in all the right moments!

Ben Caterine

Ben, our previous software subteam lead, was a charismatic, software engineering powerhouse. He was one of the members that have stuck with the club since the very beginning, laying the groundwork for our website’s control panel and sensor reads. It’s insane how much work he’s put in over the years – from debugging features to mentoring the next generation of software subteam members. Because of his determination and dependability, Ben has secured the future of the AutoAquaponics software team. Thank you for your service Mr. Caterine; we wish you the best of luck in the workforce and will miss you dearly!

Bill Yen

Bill - AutoAquaponics founder, previous PM, and our friend- was always there for our team when we needed him. For every team he worked on, he disseminated a plethora of knowledge and support. He was always our biggest advocate, celebrating our successes and lifting us back up after setbacks. He was the rock upon which AutoAquaponics was built upon, and for that, our club will forever commemorate his dedication towards engineering a more sustainable world. We could not have asked for a better leader these past couple of years; we wish him nothing but the best at Stanford! He deserves it!

And that wraps up our academic year. There are so many more avenues of development and more proud moments to make. Stick around for them next Fall!

University of Guelph Metal for Movement : Project Impact Report

Added by ESW Guelph 4 months ago

Project Summary

The UofG Metal for Movement project was launched in January 2023 with the aim of making a positive impact on the community. This innovative initiative involves the collection of pop tabs on the UofG campus through various sources, contributing to a worthy cause. The collected pop tabs are donated to the Canadian Legion, who then sells them for scrap and utilizes the proceeds to purchase wheelchairs for individuals with disabilities. To encourage widespread participation, pop can tab collection jars have been strategically placed in various areas across the campus, including each residence and dining hall. These jars not only serve as collection points but also feature thought-provoking questions that engage students in a unique way. By simply dropping a pop tab into the jar corresponding to their choice, students can vote on different topics. For example, one question could be as light-hearted as "cats or dogs?" The interactive donation process creates a fun and engaging atmosphere for students, fostering a sense of community and inspiring them to contribute even more. In addition to the collection jars, another eye-catching collection site can be found at the University Centre. Here, a rain barrel designed to resemble a giant pop can serves as a creative and attention-grabbing collection box. The exterior of the can is meticulously crafted to resemble a Canada Dry can, made with modifications to display the logo and information representing the UofG ESW chapter. This innovative design not only draws attention to the pop-tab collection initiative but also serves as a visual representation of the club's involvement. Furthermore, arcade-style collection boxes, such as Plinko and Pinball, are being designed to provide an interactive drop-off process for students, adding an element of fun to the donation experience. To further enhance student engagement, technology is being leveraged through the use of QR codes and sensors. When students participate in the pop-tab collection, their contributions are logged virtually. This virtual platform not only tracks their involvement but also converts the pop-tab collection into virtual points that can be redeemed for exciting prizes. By combining the physical act of donating pop tabs with a digital rewards system, students are incentivized to donate more and actively participate in the initiative. Overall, the UofG Metal for Movement project not only aims to collect pop tabs but also strives to create an inclusive and interactive experience for students. By combining elements of fun, engagement, and technology, the project successfully encourages students to contribute their pop tabs, supporting a worthy cause while fostering a sense of community and social responsibility on the UofG campus.

Project Plan & Evaluation

The overall assessment for the Metal for Movement project has been incredibly positive. The presence of collection boxes on campus has generated significant interest among students, resulting in a remarkable influx of donations. The enthusiastic response from the students at UofG has been very impressive, with numerous contributions pouring in since the project's start-up. When students spot a collection box strategically placed in various locations on campus, their curiosity is piqued, and they feel a sense of purpose in actively participating. The visually appealing design of the collection boxes, whether it be the simple collection jars or the attention-grabbing rain barrel resembling a giant pop can, captivates students and sparks their interest. The boxes serve as tangible reminders of the project's mission and the impact their contributions can make. Witnessing the collection boxes in prominent areas such as residence halls and dining halls not only increases their visibility but also instills a sense of community among students. Regarding the amount of pop tabs collected, our team firmly believes that we have the potential to collect an even greater quantity through improved marketing strategies. While the current collection boxes have been effective in generating donations, we recognize that a well-executed marketing plan can significantly enhance our outreach efforts and ultimately lead to a substantial increase in the number of pop tabs collected for charity.

Lessons Learned There were multiple lessons learned throughout our Metal for Movement project. One of the biggest lessons is to be aware of how many hours your team is willing and able to put into a project every semester and to not bite off more than you can chew. We learned this the hard way by setting an ambitious target of five boxes being made over the course of two semesters. This didn’t seem like much at the time but after considering how consistently members showed up and that an hour-long meeting usually only resulted in thirty minutes of work being done, we quickly realized that this target would not be met. After talking to other chapter leaders, we learned the best way to make progress on a project was to make sub-teams and leave it up to these teams to complete their parts in their own time outside of meetings. It sounds like a bad idea, but it works really well if your members are motivated to work on the project. This leads me to my next lesson. Only work on projects that your members are SUPER excited for. If you do not do this, you will make very little progress and end up with poorer meeting turnouts. After all, clubs are volunteer groups, and you can’t force people to come to every meeting, so you need to instead bribe them in whatever ways possible to get them to come out and the best way to do this is to give them projects that they REALLY want to work on (and food if that doesn’t work…lol). Sometimes you have to try out a project to figure out what your members really like but even if it fails, as long as you listened to your members about what aspects they liked and didn’t like, you can incorporate this into projects for years to come and will end up much more successful. The third and final lesson is to communicate your plans thoroughly and frequently. The key to success is making your members aware of the deadlines that you are trying to meet and updating them frequently. This way members know well before a meeting what supplies they will need and what needs to be done by the next meeting. This will allow them to hit the ground running without requiring much guidance and require you to micromanage less.

Project Impact

Our goal with the Metal for Movement project is to continue to collect tabs on campus for years to come with the hope of collecting enough pop tabs in the next two years to purchase a wheelchair. This will allow us to not only help members in our community but also teach students that you can develop fun and sustainable projects that can also be used to directly benefit your community and the members within it.

Future Work

Our chapter plans to finish off our two boxes and implement them on campus and then begin our marketing campaign. This campaign will be used to teach students about why these arcade boxes are there, who made them, and how they too can contribute to the project and our chapter’s other ongoing projects. To maintain this project over the next few years, we will incorporate collecting tabs from our barrel, boxes, and residence jars on a monthly basis into the requirements of our Junior Project Manager roles. This will allow us to check on the boxes frequently, perform any necessary maintenance, and decide if the project is worth further expanding. Our original plan was to make more boxes every semester for the next couple years, but we decided it would be best to market our boxes better and only have a few spots on campus for students to drop off their tabs. The hope of this is that we can focus our engineer’s efforts on other new projects and put our marketing team to the test to see how much attention they can bring to the project which in an ideal world should be sufficient to collect a large amount of pop tabs using our current collection facilities.

NU - SmartTree: Winter 2023 Update

Added by Fay-Ling Laures 6 months ago

During winter quarter, we finally managed to complete our base pieces and make progress in the electrical side! For construction, we hit the ground running and started with using the water jet and table saw for the base plate and base piece walls, and spent the rest of the quarter drilling and assembling all the different parts of our base pieces together! On the electrical side, we tested our MPPT (which allows us to charge and use our battery!) and solar panels, which can successfully charge devices!

At the start of the quarter, we had a small team learn to use the waterjet in order to cut out our base pieces. Because of the large nature of our construction, we had to split the base plate into 4 smaller triangles (similar to our 4 triangular base piece modules). After consulting different shop experts, we decided to go with a “T” shaped puzzle piece to fit together our base plates. After cutting the first piece, we tested different sized “T” pieces on the waterjet first, to ensure that the two pieces would fit together (since the water jet cut was not 100% accurate and we needed to allow space to easily assemble/disassemble the puzzle pieces).

After trying different pieces, we finally found the correct fit and were able to cut the rest of the base plate, including the thicker top layer to it as well! Simultaneously, we had another team working with the table saw to level out previously uneven base piece walls. Then, we were ready to start assembling!

We first temporarily lined up the side pieces and brackets to mark holes and drill each 60° bracket. When first drilling these brackets, we did not take into account the difficulties in lining them up with the corresponding walls to drill - in the future we should definitely make them uniform! After lots of trial and error, we managed to drill all the holes correctly, counterbore the holes, and screw together all of the side piece walls. With our full assembly, we were able to router out the middle bottom and use short wood screws and glue to attach the connecting brackets (which hold each of the modules together). For future iterations, we hope to better consider how we are attaching each part ahead of time - if we had designed and lined it up correctly, the middle bottom could have been screwed straight into the middle piece module with longer wood screws for a more secure, permanent fix. However, the entirety of the base of our structure was complete!

On the electrical side, we were able to test our MPPT (which allows our batteries to be charged), discharging from the battery, and also charging from the solar panels! We were able to first charge a set of LED lights, and later even a laptop! We also tested charging multiple devices at once, since that is our ultimate goal. Next steps include creating an electrical box to hold and weather-proof all of our components.

Fay-Ling and Thomas are both extremely proud of what the team has accomplished this quarter, and are looking forward to making more progress into new parts of the structure in the spring! Our construction goal is to move from the base pieces of our structure to the poles and locking mechanisms (which will ultimately hold up our solar panels), and to integrate in our electrical system and components! Look forward to seeing our prototype soon!

NU - Green Wall: Winter 2023 Update

Added by Cameron Moore 6 months ago

Green Wall Progress From Winter 2023

Officially joining ESWNU this quarter, Green Wall has made strides beginning the design process and expanding the project team. We have been laying the groundwork to be able to start building early next year and identifying sustainability focuses to integrate into our design. We are pursuing a design that uses technology from hydroponic systems to recycle water thus minimizing water usage. We created preliminary design sketches in CAD that we will refine further moving into next quarter.

CAD model

In the recruitment process, we have identified three main interests to focus on: botany , plumbing , and construction . As we are still in the early stages of student engagement and design, our subteams are working together. Once construction has started early next year we will start more specific tasks for each focus team. Currently we have had some great work done by many members of our team including Kyan Shlipak and Liv Fingerson .

sketching design

This spring quarter will focus on water systems and structures that will allow our design to be easily reproduced for future iterations of the project.

Project managers Cameron Moore and Ellie Lind are extremely pleased with the progress made this past quarter. And we look forward to continuing to build our community within this project group as we progress.

NU - AutoAquaponics: Winter 2023 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Winter of 2023
Added by Bill Yen 6 months ago

This quarter, AutoAquaponics made strides in all aspects of our project and welcomed David Kim and Emi Saegusa to our team. We also continued our involvement in community education by giving a tour of the system to middle and high schoolers from the Chicagoland area as a part of Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) Career Day for Girl event. Our team members showed them everything from the plumbing system we built to our software platform, which many of our visitors were especially excited about. We hope to impart to them that engineering is for everyone and demonstrate the importance of diversity in science with our own various backgrounds and identities. Read more about AutoAquaponics’ involvement in SWE’s Career Day for Girls at McCormick’s recent article here .

Our plumbing and software team representatives (Hannah and Talia) giving a presentation of our system:

AutoAquaponics is also honored to receive Northwestern community’s recognition this quarter by accepting the Wildcat Impact Award for Discovery . Our current Project Manager (Bill Yen) was selected for this award among the entire student body for his work on starting AutoAquaponics over the pandemic and transferring his leadership and engineering skills over to the next generation of student leaders. Our incoming group of leaders will be Marcos Sanchez and Lester Tai (AutoAquaponics Co-Project Managers), Kyan Shlipak (Plumbing Lead), Yanni Wilcox (Electronics Lead), Andre Chen (Software Lead), and Eduardo Andrade (Biology Lead).

On the project side, our software team focused on improving the security of our web app by implementing website login and authentication via Firebase. This includes secure writes for all of the developed pages on our control panel. They also improved our website's mobile performance and set up Google Analytics to monitor traffic so we can better understand how to improve our UI design. Next quarter, we plan to revamp the home page by introducing an interactive diagram of our AutoAquaponics system in place of the static image right now.

Mobile view of the dashboard:

As for electronics, we are in the process of replacing our current ultrasonic distance sensor with a more robust product that can sense water levels without getting corroded over time. We also continued our work in designing our electronics box PCB and fully reworked our outlet box code to get it ready for implementation. Some of our members began designing a window-cleaning robot, which we hope to use to keep our fish tank's front glass panel algae-free. We got the encoder working and fitted the motor shaft to our 3D-printed rim, and our next steps will be to laser-cut holders for magnets to sit in so the robot can stay attached to the glass. Winter Quarter likewise marked the official end to our fish feeder team's time in Northwestern's Interdisciplinary Design course, and they ended the project strong by creating a new prototype fish feeder featuring a custom-designed PCB that allows the feeder to actuate motors and record how much food was being fed with high degrees of accuracy.

Our members working on the outlet box:

Soldering components to the custom fish feeder PCB using a microscope:

Our plumbing team put their efforts into 3D printing a better intake screen for the solids lifting overflow (SLO) and also modifying the membrane filtration tank by installing a bracket to hold the filtering membrane. They also prototyped a new custom-designed bell siphon for the lower grow bed in order to improve flow and increase the water level in the grow bed so that seedlings can grow faster.

Waterproofing and removing supports from the 3D printed bell siphon:

Members getting laser-cutter trained and then applying their new skills to manufacture brackets for the membrane filter:

Some unfortunate development occurred on the biological side of AutoAquaponics. Namely, our fish became infected with camallanus worm, which is a type of intestinal parasite that will eventually starve the fish of nutrients and kill them. See the red worms exiting their recently deceased host in the picture below:

To combat this, we are dosing fenbendazole and levamisole in the form of medicated fish food, both of which are known to kill nematodes. The biology team spent most of their efforts this quarter trying to cure and save as many fish as we can, as camallanus worm is especially difficult to get rid of since they are unaffected by medication in the water. This means that if the fish stops eating due to the sickness, it becomes impossible to kill the worms.

Our biology team member putting medicated fish food into the commercial automatic fish feeder we use:

The parasites have mostly only affected our smaller fishes (tiger barbs and mollies), and larger fish like the Raphael catfish here seemed fine:

We also continued to grow our plant produce and added mint and spring onion to our crop list:

At the start and end of Winter Quarter, AutoAquaponics hosted harvest day socials for ESWNU to turn the plants we grew into delicious food and share them with the whole club. Here are some pictures of our team processing our produce into wheatgrass smoothies, mint creme brulee, and scallion pancakes:

And of course, we composted all of our waste at the designated bins run by Cats Who Compost :

That's all for this quarter, thank you so much for your continuous support, and stay tuned for more updates from AutoAquaponics in the Spring!

Message From the Writer

Hi there! I'm Bill. This is the last blog post that I will do as the founder and Project Manager of AutoAquaponics since we are transitioning to new leadership in the Spring so I can (finally) graduate. To our dear readers (whoever you are), I want to personally thank you for reading this blog and keeping up to date with our project. I also want to thank all of my ESWNU teammates (past and present) for sticking with me and spending countless hours building an indoor farming system just because it’s “cool”. Because of them, we were able to turn this simple idea into a fully working system that improves our understanding of aquaponics and teaches children from the Chicagoland area about sustainable agriculture. When I started AutoAquaponics 3 years ago with just 1 other person on Zoom and a Raspberry Pi, I never thought it could’ve had this much impact on Northwestern and become the beautiful community it is now. I was initially motivated by my curiosity and drive to do something different in sustainability, but eventually I realized what made me step through the door of our meeting room week after week were the faces behind it, not the prototypes or circuits we built. It has been a privilege and a gift to lead such an amazing team to tackle this incredibly complex and interdisciplinary project, and seeing younger members’ eyes light up with excitement as they study our fish and the systems we designed to support them has been nothing short of magical. There is still more work to be done with AutoAquaponics, but I know the future is in good hands with our excellent group of new Project Managers and Sub-Team Leaders, many of whom I call my friends. It has been a crazy, rewarding, and at times, difficult ride, but I’m grateful for all of it because of how it shaped me as a person, leader, and engineer for a sustainable world. ESWNU - thanks for the last 4 years, and I love you all <3

Signing off,

Bill Yen

NU - SmartTree: Fall 2022 Update

Added by Fay-Ling Laures 9 months ago

This past quarter, the team made substantial progress in construction and finalized a renewed electrical plan! We’ve been figuring out some new ways to structure and organize our work, including creating electrical and different construction project teams. This quarter, we had a sub team working on using the table side to miter the base piece walls, while another learned the router to be able to cut out triangular base piece lids. The electrical also drafted and approved a new plan, ready to wire next quarter!

team foto

On the construction side of things, this quarter we worked on mitering the side of all the base pieces so that they would fit flush against each other in a triangle shape. After brainstorming and consulting many different Shop Professionals, we determined that no tools could miter such thick wood to our desired 60° cut. The only solution was to build a support that held the pieces vertically upright when clamped to it, so that the table saw only had to cut at a 30° angle. The table saw team received formal training and guidance from Prototyping Shop Professional Scott Simpson, and spent the first few weeks building and testing this support. Once they were familiarized with the tool and setup, the rest of the pieces were a breeze to miter!

At the end of spring quarter, a couple of members received training on the router, however, the machine broke shortly after so we were unable to complete the base piece lids. Thankfully, we got to try again this quarter - some newer members got trained while old members refreshed from ship trainer Sarah Yung. We were able to practice before creating a file to router all 3 of the side base piece lids. We’re currently waiting to assemble and measure exact lengths before creating the middle piece lid (which also requires an indented rim to allow for insulation!).

The last construction decision made was regarding the benches. After realizing the work and materials required to create concrete bench legs using the mold and finding the resulting weight too heavy, we decided to switch to metal (likely aluminum) bench frames. This is both more sustainable and more convenient as it uses less material and can be moved more easily.

Regarding electrical progress, the team met with a professor to revise our out of date electrical diagram. We replaced our original 120V system with a 20V system (low enough voltage to not be harmful to humans), so we no longer have to worry about grounding our structures. Unfortunately, this means that we can no longer incorporate sockets into our design. However, we’ve come up with practical solutions like providing low voltage USB hubs and universal chargers in weather protection boxes. We’ve ordered the necessary components for testing, and can’t wait to start working on it in the winter quarter!

updated electrical

Overall, The project managers Fay-Ling and Thomas are both extremely proud of what the team has accomplished this quarter, and hope to keep the momentum going into winter quarter. Our goal is to finish the base pieces and start on the base plate, the other main component of our structure. We also aim to have a working electrical system by the end of the quarter, so be on the lookout!

Hope everyone has had a great school year and we will touch base soon!

NU - AutoAquaponics: Fall 2022 Update

AutoAquaponics Progress From Fall of 2022
Added by Bill Yen 9 months ago

AutoAquaponics ended 2022 strong by significantly expanding our membership through increasing the frequencies of our social/recruitment events. In addition, we formed our new Biology sub-team, which aims to improve our understanding of the fish, plants, and microbes in our system so we can make better design decisions. We welcomed Seeley McGillis, Annie Ho, Daniel Soto, Edward Lee, Lianne Kim, Miya Liu, Varoon Enjeti, Zeeshan Razzaq, Andre Chen, Gracelyn Shi, Talia Ben-Naim, Calvin Davies, Jack Doheny, Hannah Wilks, Aliza Campbell, and Kyan Shlipak to our team. We are also honored to receive the continued support of Northwestern's Associated Student Government (ASG) and ESW Global this quarter with the ASG Sustainability Grant and ESW Global Project Grant. In September, we began our partnership with Northwestern's Segal Design Institute by turning the automatic fish feeding part of our project into the capstone assignment for the Interdisciplinary Product Design course.

Beach social:

Making our ESWNU club banner for Homecoming:

Recruiting freshmen at the Morning with McCormick event:

Photo from our Sunday whole-team meetings:

Students hard at work to design our automatic fish feeder for their design capstone;

After their continuous effort over the course of the past year, the software team has successfully launched the AutoAquaponics 2.0 platform, which is a web application that anyone with an Internet connection can access to monitor the state of our system in real-time through the Dashboard tab. Check it out at! Note that the website currently does not support mobile devices or Safari, so users accessing it through these methods may experience some bugs for the time being.

Home Page of our web app:

Dashboard with live data:

The team behind this magic:

Next steps with the AutoAquaponics 2.0 platform would be to add control capabilities in the Settings and Control Panel pages and also a live video stream of the system. The software team will be working closely with the electronics group to make this happen in 2023.

Speaking of the electronics team, they have been focusing their efforts in integrating more sensors into our system and improving their accuracy. They've installed two hall effect flow sensors and a number of analog signal isolators to prevent our pH, TDS, and dissolved oxygen sensors from interfering with one another.

On the plumbing side, we worked on enhancing the performance of our solids removal system by building a bracket for our membrane filters. This is intended to ensure that the filter pads tightly fit around the edge of the filter tank so sediments won’t bypass them through those gaps. We also began using an additional water pump with custom 3D printed outlets to push solids from the corners of our fish tank to the solids lifting overflow (SLO) intake so they can end up in the settling tank. Furthermore, we have been continuously redesigning components like our SLO intake and overflow intake screen to prevent fish from entering while allowing sediments to go through.

New SLO intake screen CAD design:

Installed new overflow screen with side grates:

Members working as a team to prototype their membrane bracket design:

Last but not least, the Biology team made a lot of progress this quarter by introducing a number of new aquatic species to our system. Namely, we've added a red-tailed shark, Raphael catfish, firemouth cichlid, snails, and a number of mollies to the fish tank. We also successfully grew wheatgrass in our media bed to test how different plant types grow in AutoAquaponics while making some healthy green juice at the same time. Due to aggression from some of the fish in the tank, we have seen a couple injured occupants, so we set up a separate quarantine tank to allow them to recover and receive medication if necessary.

Red-tailed shark and Raphael catfish being transported to the tank:

Our new mollies playing with the tiger barbs:

Firemouth cichlid patrolling his new territory:

Wheatgrass' journey from seeds to lawn and finally juice:

Quarantine tank:

We are excited to continue working on AutoAquaponics in 2023. Please stay tuned on our project and feel free to reach out with any questions. If you would like to contribute to our software platform or see our code, take a look at our AutoAquaponics v2.0 GitHub repository. This is an open-source project, so any idea you have would be very welcomed!

Happy New Year from all of us :)


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