Seventh grader, Iyanu Olukotun, harnesses Raspberry Pi and Cayenne dashboard to solve a space-aged problem
When asked about the inspiration behind his award-winning science fair project, Iyanu Olukotun, a well-spoken seventh grader from JLS Middle School in northern California, immediately set himself apart. He wanted to solve a problem that plagues real scientists. The challenge: finding an efficient way to absorb and retain heat that would enable a lunar rover to operate in frigid conditions. To start, he turned to a favorite pairing: a Raspberry Pi computer and the Cayenne IoT project builder.
As he considered his project for the Greene Scholars Program’s science fair, Iyanu wasn’t content to build just another science fair experiment. When he learned through a ScienceDaily Magazine article that equipment and machinery, like rovers, can be difficult to operate on the moon in areas of extreme cold, he knew he had found his match. Iyanu studied existing solutions, like battery-operated heaters, and decided to explore the efficiency of a “thermal mass,” a physical object that would absorb and retain solar energy well enough to radiate heat over time. Iyanu and his father set to work in their garage building ceramic tile boxes, which Iyanu filled with various ratios of soil and aluminum filings, materials suggested in his research. He then used digital thermometers to measure their efficiency at storing heat over time, hoping to find the best combination.
To test his setup, Iyanu initially used a multimeter to read his DS18B20 digital thermometers. Searching for a better solution, he turned to a Raspberry Pi computer to perform hourly tests for him. With his father’s help, Iyanu soldered the probes to a circuit board, which he connected to his Raspberry Pi, and then searched online for tools to control and visualize his setup without the need for extensive coding. He encountered the Cayenne IoT project builder, which enabled him to connect and read data from each sensor at regular intervals, and to log them in a spreadsheet for analysis. After a brief tutorial from his father, Iyanu set up his Cayenne dashboard to display sensor data. When the pair encountered a problem, they turned to Cayenne’s online community, where Rob Siegel, Cayenne’s head of support, took interest and personally responded to his post, not only helping him to solve his problem, but also to optimize their dashboard setup. Rob then showed Iyanu how to take advantage of Cayenne’s ability to display multiple project configurations in individual dashboards. Combining Raspberry Pi’s technical strengths with Cayenne’s data visualization features, Iyanu was able to test his hypothesis and present his research, eventually winning the grand prize in his division at the GSP science fair.
When asked why he chose Raspberry Pi and Cayenne, Iyanu praised the Pi’s simplicity and accessibility to students who want to learn about electronics, and noted that other IoT platforms he tried before Cayenne required him at some point to know how to code like a developer. His mother, who has a coding background, also pointed out that Cayenne enabled her to support her son’s experimenting despite years having passed since her coding days.
Now that he has won the grand prize in the Greene Scholars Program’s science fair, Iyanu plans to submit an updated version of his project to the Synopsys Silicon Valley Science Fair in March. We at Cayenne find his solution to be…we can’t help it…out of this world.
Good luck, Iyanu!
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