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Students waste a significant amount of time trying to find available study spots on campus. At the University of Pennsylvania, libraries such as Huntsman Hall and Van Pelt are particularly popular. These study spaces fill up quickly and make it difficult to find a table or desk to study at.
To solve this problem, we built SmartSpace - an Internet of Things sensor network and web app platform to show students where available study spots are located. It connected a series of Arduino-powered sensors via Wi-Fi to a database that stored the state of each study space, which was then visualized and analyzed via a web app. This was a team of three students, where I was mainly responsible for the hardware design (designing the Arduino sensor network, 3D printing and laser cutting the housing for the sensors, and building the charging station).

To see a demonstration of the product, please visit this link: https://youtu.be/6ymaLkEe6SE
Our sensors are powered by an Arduino MKR1000. This board has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, making it the ideal microcontroller for Internet of Things devices. The Arduino includes a Li-Po charging circuit that allows it to run on battery power. This 1Ah lithium-ion battery is charged wirelessly using a Micro-USB Qi wireless charging receiver. Distance is measured using an Infrared Proximity Sensor to determine if a study spot is occupied, and an LED indicates whether or not the sensor is paired and working correctly. Lastly, an RFID reader allows our sensors to be placed in any location after being recharged by reading an RFID chip attached to each study spot.
The electronics shown above are encased in a 3D printed housing, which has our logo and website laser cut on the top of it. These components were designed in SolidWorks and printed using MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation 3D printers.
We built 5 working prototypes and placed them in a popular study space on campus for a week to collect data. As you can see here, when a sensor is low on battery, it can be wirelessly charged in the charging station, and any other sensor can take its place due to the RFID chip reader on the bottom of the device.
Senior Design Poster
On the web app, users can browse buildings and rooms and view the occupancy of specific study spots. Users can create accounts and add study spots to a list of their 'favorites’. Our web app is written in Ruby on Rails and incorporates some JavaScript libraries for the front-end UI. Our Arduino sensors communicate with the web app via HTTP PUT requests sent to the web app’s API, which updates the study spot’s state in the database. Our View pages are data-driven, so they respond to an update with a color change. The web app also includes data capture methods, which store the duration a given study spot is occupied in the database. Heroku is the server that runs our web app, and for our database we are using PostgreSQL (SQLite is not supported by Heroku). When the state of a study spot changes, the program sends an HTTP PUT request to the web app via Wi-Fi. Usage data is then passed into MATLAB scripts that calculate various measurements and display them as visual plots.
SmartSpace offers more than just the web app and sensor network. Our product also includes a data analytics dashboard for university administrators, where they can view and compare important usage metrics on space. For example, university administrators can view the popular times of certain rooms, as well as the probability that a certain number of seats will be available at any given time. This data would also be accessible to students on the web app, but the university would have far more information on the data analytics dashboard. After speaking with senior facilities personnel at the university, we discovered that this data would be very useful as it would provide them with insights when allocating new resources to study spaces.
Photo of the team with our professors on Senior Design Awards night. Our team won two awards, shown below. We were also selected by a panel of judges as one of the top three Senior Design projects in the department (out of 25 teams), which allowed us to represent the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering in the annual Senior Design competition. Here, we gave a comprehensive presentation to some of the most senior members of the School of Engineering and competed against the best projects from the school's other engineering departments (Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, etc.).
Norman Gross Senior Project Award
Demo Day Award
Presenting at the SEAS-Wide competition, where we were one of three teams representing the Department of Electrical and Systems Engineering.
Photo of the team following our final presentation.
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SmartSpace

Penn Engineering Senior Design Project. For this project, we built an Internet of Things sensor network and a web app platform to show students where available study spots are located. It connected a series of Arduino-powered sensors via Wi-Fi to a database that stored the state of each study space, which was then visualized and analyzed via a web app. This was a team of three students, where I was mainly responsible for the hardware design (designing the Arduino sensor network, 3D printing and laser cutting the housing for the sensors, and building the charging station).

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Matt Raimo
Business Development Analyst at AQR Capital Management Greenwich, CT