Friday, March 31, 2017

A Surge of Results in FLOW

FLOW has been enjoying the warmer Spring temperatures and using this opportunity to spend more time in the field. After spending a few weeks fine tuning techniques at the OCC pond, we've graduated to bigger and more exciting wetlands! 

Once we agreed that we were finished with our data collection at OCC we took the opportunity to celebrate Keep Durham Beautiful's Creek Week by organizing a quick clean up of the "trash pond."
One of my favorite parts of litter clean ups is the entertainment value of the items you find. Over the years I have discovered some memorable cast offs. The clear winner of this clean up was the mysterious purse. (But we were all bummed out about the likely chain of custody that deposited it into the pond.)

All of the students who came out had a great time and a few of them went on to other Creek Week events later in the day. Durham Tech has made a commitment to providing service to the community and I've been incredibly impressed by the amount of time that my students give so selflessly.

We filled FOUR BAGS of trash from one pond!

The Durham Tech FLOW team has moved on to the Ellerbe Creek Beaver Marsh Preserve for some more advanced research and it has been amazing. The change in location has reinvigorated the project.

This gorgeous spot is tucked behind an urban strip mall and receives a barrage of non-point source pollution every time it rains. Local groups have made great strides in protecting the area but just because of where it sits in the drainage basin it inevitably collects a melange of gross detritus. 

We took advantage of the large tables and free wifi at Starbucks to set up and calibrate our gear before moving into the bright sunshine of the field.

It started out cool and overcast but turned into a glorious day to be in the field. Seth got to experience the squishy joy of wearing waders in the swamp. Every step he took squelched in the peaty bog.

The power lines surrounding the marsh posed a challenge for the drone so we sourced a pallet from one of the neighboring stores and built a makeshift launch pad. We experience some trepidation during take off and landing but the 3DR Solo reliably hit the target. The Phantom that we borrowed from NCCU was not as accurate so we made the decision to err on the side of caution and kept it in the stable for most of the day until we could get a better idea of the quirks it had.

The imagery we got from the day encouraged the entire team to try their hand at remote sensing!

We've been preparing for a poster session that is coming up so it was exciting to have a wide variety of data sets to share of the poster.

Here's a mosaic that I made while I was writing a remote sensing tutorial for the students.

Can you spot the beaver lodge and our make shift landing pad?

Thursday, March 30, 2017


The folks at HASP challenged us to prove that our sensors would get enough air flow in the thin stratospheric conditions. We knew the fan we modeled our design around would need testing. We knew that the other teams who were using it just sidestepped the issue by not trying to run the fan during float. We really want to try to run our sensors during float so we had to get serious about figuring out what to use. We've looked at fans, blowers, pumps, compressors, diaphragm pumps, piston pumps and magic.

I've titled this photo, "Strippers and blow."

Tonight we had a huge testing push to put our favorite pump through an obstacle course.

Handsome Dan built our prototype BABI. We're not allowed to have a pressure vessel but we need a way to contain the air long enough for the sensors to get a reading. So we've designed something that will gently release pressure once it hits a certain threshold. We call it the Bernoulli Air Bath Intensifier (BABI). It kinda works! (We did the math and it checks out.)

We're going to need even MORE testing in order to be conclusive but that's kind of the point of this whole project. The team always seems to enjoy the build and testing process and it's a relief to be doing science and engineering with hands on materials. The photo below was taken at 11:00 pm on a Wednesday so it's safe to say that this cheery group is having a good time. 

Thursday, March 2, 2017


Back Row: David Cardwell, Dan Daugherty, Ryan Theurer, Mohamed Karoui, Julie Hoover, Seth Close, Ryan Hull, Erick Ramirez
Front Row: Kieran Valakuzky, Daniel Koris, Jimmy Acevedo, Emily Watkins, Munir Sultan