Sun, Mar 04, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Students claim top prizes for mushroom monitor

By Chen Feng-li and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

National Chung-hsing Senior High School students Shih Kuei-fen, second left, and Feng Hui-chuan, second right, are joined by their teachers Tsai I-tan, left, and Wang Yen-huang on Thursday as they hold up their awards after winning the top prizes in an Acer Inc competition.

Photo: Cheng Feng-lee, Taipei Times

An Internet of Things thermometer and humidity meter for farmers developed by two Nantou City high-school students won them top prizes in a competition held by Acer Inc on Wednesday.

National Chung-hsing Senior High School students Feng Hui-chuan (馮慧娟) and Shih Kuei-fen (石貴分) said they developed the system after visiting a mushroom farm.

The system allows farmers to monitor temperature and humidity conditions from anywhere using the Internet, as well as remotely adjust temperatures and water levels, they said.

The students won the top prize in the high-school students’ creative design category and the special jury prize, as well as NT$150,000 in prize money.

They hope to make the technology available so that it can help farmers as soon as possible, the students said.

Feng and Shih, both from farming families in Nantou County’s Puli Township (埔里), learned about cloud computing and the Internet of Things in their information technology class.

They were first taught about cloud-connected temperature control systems by their teacher Tsai I-tan (蔡宜坦), they said, adding that they immediately thought of applying what they had learned to mushroom farming, in which temperature and humidity control is key.

Shih said that only after visiting a classmate’s family mushroom farm did she discover that substrates are stored in plastic bags that contain temperature sensors.

However, these bags must be connected to computers with USB connections in order to read back temperature and humidity data, she said, adding that this makes it difficult to quickly ascertain changes in the mushrooms’ growing environment.

Fearing insufficient humidity in the substrates, farmers often spray water into the bags every 10 minutes, which is a waste, she said.

After deciding to devise a solution for the problem, the two classmates spent a month designing and building their system, working on it every day after school.

“Since data transmitted to the cloud is encrypted, there is no need for concern about personal information getting leaked,” Feng said. “Farmers can be anywhere. The app gives an audio notification when temperatures are too high and waters the substrate automatically when humidity is too low.”

The students said they plan to donate a portion of their prize money to the school, to be used as a fund for classmates to buy materials for future competitions.

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