Wireless Sensing and Control of a Dam
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I did this project as a graduate Electrical Engineering while pursuing my Bachelor of Engineering in the field of Electrical Engineering from Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, Balochistan. I wanted to conduct a project that would envelop wireless sensing and thus wanted to learn about different electrical activities that would be needed and thus learn about its design and how to implement it. I was able to improve my written and oral presentation skills as well as my interpersonal skills by the successful completion of this project.
For my final project as an undergraduate in electrical engineering, I wanted to start working on a project in my second year itself. I wanted to learn about the different and commonly used electrical/electronic components, the working mechanism and the implementation in complex projects. This motivated me to conduct a project that could control a mechanism remotely. And thus I got the idea of wireless sensing of a dam.
I had studied during my bachelors that sensing in the Oil and Gas industry is becoming very important. I had learned that regular sensing of data is required that are extracted from the process execution, such as Oil Reservoir Tanks need a pressure breathe valve control and level sensing for the proper daily operations of their machinery, Thus, I concurred that in Water Reservoir Dams where regular recording of water level is required for accurate discharging of water through channels. And it is due to this reason that I selected the "Wireless Sensing & Control of Dam" for my project.
The objective of my project is to design a system, which can sense level, and flow rate of a water reservoir dam, it can also control the channel gates wirelessly.
I successfully completed this project by engaging in the following activities:
- For the purpose of Level sensing, I used a small tank for the implementation and presentation of the prototype. The maximum height of the tank to be measured is 16 inches and the minimum height is 8 inches.
- For channel gate controlling, I used a system that contains a solenoid valve which is an electromechanically operated valve for the flow of water to be switched on or off.
- For wireless control, I equipped the remote stations with sensors as well as a wireless module to send and receive the information. The range of the wireless module is limited to 10m.
- I equipped the base station with a GUI software that is user-friendly.
- I then mechanically designed the sensor to operate in all weather conditions.
- I completed the project within the time frame specified by the university.
- I conducted detailed literature review on all the components used here.
- Personal Engineering Activity
I approached a senior professor with an idea of conducting a project with wireless sensing. Along with my group members, I had a lot of brainstorming sessions and review meetings with my project supervisor to select a suitable topic. I suggested that I work on a project that was concerned with designing and manufacturing a system based on wireless sensing and regulating the process of water present in the dam and the supervisor agreed to this and asked us to begin working on this by first conducting a literature review on all the components we would require and the working of this project and to start working on this project.
I used the following components in this project and have explained the reasons why:
- For level sensing, I equipped my system with MAXBOTIX LV-EZ1 ultrasonic transducer that transmit and receive the ultrasonic radiations that are being reflected back from the surface of the liquid. I selected this model because it is a very low cost sonar ranger; it is also reliable and could be triggered internally or externally.
- To release water in the channel, I used a solenoid valve which was the only option I had.
- The microcontroller that I used in the remote station is ATmega16A. I selected this microcontroller because it is a low power 8-bit microcontroller allowing me to optimize power consumption against processing speed.
- The signal is then transmitted to the RN-41N CLASS 1 Bluetooth module to be transmitted wirelessly. I selected this model because it is cheap and relatively easy to operate. I used a DC power supply of 3-3.6V.
- The computer interface controller is equipped with MAX232 for serial communication and an internal Bluetooth device which is installed in the laptop for wireless communication. I used the MAX232 circuit because it is a dual driver/receiver and I found that it is valuable for implementing RS-232 in devices that generally don't bother with any voltages outside the 0 V to + 5 V extend, as power supply design does not need to be made more confused only to drive the RS-232 in this situation.
- I used the Development board called AVR-P-40 which supports Atmel ATmega16A controller. It is compatible with ICSP 5x2 pin connector for in-circuit programming.
- I used ULN 2003 Darlington arrays to withstand peak currents of 600mA.
- I designed the Graphical User Interface (GUI) using Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 with C # for user interface.
I selected an aquarium shape tank for the project. However, this alternative was very difficult and also had some problems because it was quite complex to put the ultrasonic level sensor inside the tank and calibrate it. Thus, I came across with the development of another mechanical design and observed that there was an apparatus present in the laboratory of the civil engineering department that would work as a prototype of a dam.
The working of this prototype would be:
- The data from the remote station is received by the base station. The base station consists of a wireless Bluetooth receiver and a computer interface controller. The wireless Bluetooth receiver will detect the data coming from the remote station which is treated to the computer interface controller. The computer interface controller will save the data to a flash drive and also to a computer which can be analyzed using a Graphical User Interface (GUI)
- The data coming from the remote station is detected by the wireless receiver which is treated to the noise filter circuit to eliminate noise from the signal. The data decoder decodes the incoming data and removes any errors from this data. This information is send to the computer interface controller.
- The remote station is consisting of two major parts: The Main board and wireless controller.Â The sensor attached to the main board is Ultrasonic level Sensor. This sensor will relay the information to the main board and is used to control all the sensor information which will be transferred to the wireless controller to send the data wirelessly to the base station. The data from the sensor is directly sent to the microcontroller which is being processed by it to be transmitted in the form of digital bits.
- The ULN 2003 is connected to drive the solenoid valve which is normally closed. If the Level increases from its threshold level, the solenoid valve will open automatically and releases the pressure. When the pressure drops back to the threshold, the valve will be closed automatically. The power to all the circuit is connected to the +12 volt DC. After the data is sensed by the sensor, it will be transmitted through a wireless transceiver operating at frequency 2400 MHz. The wireless controller consists of transmitter, power amplifier, control signal receiver and data encoder. The data coming from the sensor is treated to the data encoder and sent to the transmitter. The control signal receiver also operates at 2400 MHz which is used to activate the data encoder to send data to the transmitter module. The power amplifier is used to support larger coverage by increasing the transmitting power
The problems I encountered during this project were:
- I had difficulty with the lengthy procedure to record data which is significant for the project. I offered the idea of installing a dot-matrix printer which will give readings in a hard copy regarding the inflow, discharge and temperature of water.
- For the project to run effectively, constant data recording was needed, which was a complex task. I came up with a key to solve this issue by recording the data in a flash memory which has the ability to save standard information of the parameters in a soft copy and will be accessible anytime, anywhere.
- I had problems to check the level of water density in concern with the threshold level. It was quiet a risky task to open the regulator when the density of water is high. In order to resolve this problem, I suggested the management with the system design that will operate the channel gate regulator automatically without labor involvement in order to avoid the risk element.
I successfully completed the project titled "Wireless Sensing and Control of a Dam" along with my team members. I learned how to wirelessly sense and control a prototype of a dam and studied and learned about all the electrical/electronic equipment that I used in this project.
I completed this project by taking the help of the Civil Engineering Laboratory and the technicians in the lab. I was able to improve my written, oral and interpersonal skills.
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