GGHC Chill Box V0.1 Build

On March 30th, Laura Burkhart (of SLIM) came to my home and we built Chill Box V0.1.  This is the version she will be showing at the Maui Agricultural Festival this saturday (April 2). It is a simple, no electronic control version. It consists of a styrofoam ice chest filled with cold water, a small fountain pump, a short length of 1/2″ plastic tube and a U of copper pipe (+fittings).

The initial build went pretty easy. Laura and her partner arrived about 9am and (after feeding horses) we reviewed the parts she had brought. She had some 1/2″ copper tube, a styrofoam cooler and a small fountain pump. I realized there was no easy way to connect the pump to pipes, and that my torch had gone awol. So we made a quick road trip to the Haiku Hardware Store for parts. We initially tried the Ohana Greenhouse & Garden Supply in Haiku center, which specializes in hydroponics, etc. Their selection for grow lights, fertilizers, etc was pretty wide, but not so good for tubing, and nothing for copper. I think the staff had been sampling produce from gardens too… at 10am! Haiku Hardware was very helpful and had just about everything we needed. Laura bought a foot of 1/2″ plastic tube, some calk and some fittings to attach the tubing to copper pipe. I picked up a burner for my butane bottles, some flux + brush, solder and a small pipe cutter. Always nice when a project adds to your tool box!

Back at the garage, we cut a couple 18″ lengths of pipe, guesstimated a center length and then got to sweating the copper joints. Its been quite a few years since I soldered copper pipe, but most of the basics came back quickly. I did forget a few things – like wear long pants and socks. Solder drips sometimes and hot splatter stings. The resulting joints are not professional work but do hold water. Once we had the U assembled, I pushed the ends into the styrofoam to mark the location for holes. I used a short remnant pipe to push thru the styrofoam, drilling the holes. It made a nice blow pipe too – although it took a strong wind to clear the foam plugs. I was about to calk the U in place when I remembered we needed to add the nipple. This required sweating a threaded fitting on one end of the U. Once that was done, I had to widen one hole to accept the new fitting. Then we screwed on the nipple and used some silicone calk to seal up the holes. Since the outgoing hole was now bigger than the pipe, I used some of the styrofoam chunks to help fill the hole. I let it dry overnight.

This morning (March 31, 2011), I brought the unit out to the lanai (porch for you mainlanders), filled it with water and plugged in the pump…. WoooHoo! it pumped water and no leaks from joints. Next I got some ice packs from the freezer and dumped them into the water. I added a bunch of ice chips too, so as to quickly reduce the water temperature. The packs and chips raised the water level above the holes in sides of cooler – and immediately started running out from below the outgoing end. I guess I had not completely sealed that hole. I will add a bit of silicone, but first I wanted to let it run and see if it would condense water….. 20 minutes later I went back out to check and LO! Condensation!!

Ok so V0.1 works!! Couple things need changing:

  • re-calk the pipe holes
  • shorten the pipes. Current 18″ length is pretty long
  • add insulation on legs of pipe so as to keep condensation over the end/garden

Here are some pictures of the build:
[slickr-flickr set=”72157626400594364″ descriptions=”on” flickr_link=”on” sort=”title” ]

Next up will be:

We have a planning meeting scheduled for tonight (Thursday) at the offices of Brian Thomas.

Update: Here’s Laura and Devon showing the box at the fest:

Laura and Devon showing Chill Box v0.1 at Maui Agricultural Festival

UPDATE: check our Element14 ChillBox blog and find other posts here under the Chill Box Project Category

GGHC Chill Box Prototype at Ag Fest

[Update: it worked well!! See blog post for build documentation. and picture below]

Our first prototype/demonstration for the Chill Box is under construction and will be shown this week Saturday April 2, at the Maui Agricultural Festival in the Educational tent. The Chill Box is our project for the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge

The prototype is a small styrofoam ice chest that will be full of chilled water – chilled by containers of ice floating in it. A small submersible fountain pump circulates the water thru a small loop of 1/2″ copper tube. The idea is there will be condensation on the copper tube and it will drip onto a small planter of “starts”.

Laura Burkhart of Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) is hosting it and creating the educational materials to go along with it.  Today, she and I hacked together the basic demo box. Pictures will be posted shortly.

The festival runs 9am-4pm on the lū‘au grounds of Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapū.  The general event is free and open to the public. They also have a “Taste Education” tent in partnership with Slow Food Maui, where you can taste food prepared by chefs and farmers from the island, and learn how to grow, and prepare locally sourced food.  That part cost $25/adult presale, $30/adult at gate. There is a flyer (pdf) on the Far Bureau site with details

Here’s a pic of Laura and Devon (sp?) at the fest:

Laura and Devon showing Chill Box v0.1 at Maui Agricultural Festival

UPDATE: check our Element14 ChillBox blog and find other posts here under the Chill Box Project Category

GGHC Chill Box week 2 (or 3?)

Our first post to the element-14 site is up.  This is a Group Blog on the element-14 site.  You can comment, etc there by joining the element-14 site, then joining the Group.

Basically it gives a background on our space and the Chill Box project.  Here is the summary I posted for the project:

Our project for the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge is called The Chill Box.  It will be a demonstration of Chilled Soil Agriculture.  The basic idea is to use cold water to chill the soil, and air above a garden bed. This has two purposes.  First, the water will condense from the air in soil and above the garden, irrigating the plants. With sufficient natural humidity and proper chilling, it is possible to elimiate extra watering.  Second, there are many plants that grow well at altitude or in colder climates but do not do well near sea level and/or in semi-tropical environments. When these plants have their roots chilled properly (not too much, not too little), they are stimulated to grow properly.   The basic idea and early demonstrations of Chilled Soil Argiculture were done at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA). NELHA is an education and research facility founded in 1974 for research into the uses of Deep Ocean Water in ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) renewable energy production. One project uses the cold ocean waters for chilled agriculture demonstration gardens.

Our project intends to demonstrate and educate the use of Chilled Soil Agriculture without deep ocean water.  We plan to use peltier elements to provide electronic cooling to the water that will be circulated through our garden boxes. A micro-controller will use temperature, humidity, soil and leaf moisture sensors to determine when and how much chilling to provide.  This will allow us to avoid some of the overwatering that can occur, take advantage of high humidity and avoid attempting to dehumidify dry air.  Peltier elements can be harvested from CPU/GPU cooling and also from electronic refridgerator and dehumifier systems.

Cole put up an introductory presentation of the technology as a Google Doc.  Laura Burkhart of Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) is working with us to build a simple demonstration system for the Maui Agricultural Festival this saturday (April 2).

There is some confusion about what week this is (2 or 3). However, the deadline for completion is April 30.  We plan to meet at least every wednesday at a location TBD.  Cole may have secured us a small space in Pu’unene with the Community Workday folks.

UPDATE: check our Element14 ChillBox blog and find other posts here under the Chill Box Project Category

Great Global Hackerspace Challenge – Chill Box

Its official – Maui Makers has been selected to participate in the Great Global Hackerspace Challenge (Spring 2011 edition)!!

Here is the brief summary of The Challenge:

  • Your hackerspace will create a project to help with education, using US$900 (or equivalent) provided by Element14. The project must use a microcontroller and a portable power source.
  • You have 6 weeks to complete your project, documenting your project as you go. All spaces that complete their project will receive 10 soldering setups.
  • Three hackerspaces’ projects will be chosen as finalists to present at the Grand Finale at the San Francisco Maker Faire. All three of these spaces will receive some really nice electronic test equipment. One person from each space will be flown out to present their project at the San Francisco Maker Faire over the weekend of 21-May & 22-May.
  • One project will be chosen at the Grand Finale at the San Francisco Maker Faire to receive some extra goodies, including a very nice oscilloscope.

Detailed instructions can be found in the Participant Packet PDF.

Our plan is build a Chilled Soil Agricultural Demonstration – aka Chill Box.  This system will circulate chilled water through (above) soil in a window box sized container. The chilled water serves several purposes. The main purpose is to condense water from atmosphere onto the soil.  Secondary purposes are related to growing temperate and high altitude plants in a semi-tropical/sea level environment.   We have already had strong interest expressed by the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) and representatives of the Maui County Dept of Water Supply.  Our intent is to use a peltier device to provide Thermo-electric Cooling controlled by a microprocessor using humidity and moisture and various other sensors to chill the water.  We intend to use a solar power panel to provide portable power, coupled with a deep cycle marine battery so the system can operate at night, when there may be higher humidity.

More to follow!!

UPDATE: check our Element14 ChillBox blog and find other posts here under the Chill Box Project Category

Meeting at Omaopio Greenhouse Saturday 3/19, 3pm

Our next meeting will be this saturday, March 19, at 3pm at the 3361 Omaopio space:
Map Link

This is about 3 turns uphill from Surfing Goat Dairy, and about 3 miles down hill from Kula Hwy.

There is very limited parking (3-5 cars) up the driveway, but there is a fair bit more on the shoulder of Omaopio both before and after the greenhouses. There are a couple shoulder spaces right below the greenhouses.
The green house (shell) we are looking at is straight up the driveway off to the left as the drive curves off right. (if I recall correctly).

Update – followup after meeting:
Yesterday (Saturday 18 March) we had a small group visit the Omaopio Greenhouse location. Attending were Jessica, Dina, Gabe and myself.

Dina and I arrived a bit early and our resident connection, Raj, came out to ask if he could help. I had forgotten to inform Raj that we would be visiting. Raj is our contact and the man from whom we would be ‘subletting’ the space. He runs a business from one of the greenhouses (plant extracts) and I believe he lives in another. Raj is making three (4?) of the other greenhouse frames he rents available to the community garden effort. Raj seemed a bit put off by our arrival – interrupting his quiet saturday afternoon. I wonder how he will feel when we have a regular stream of people through the space – and noisy machines, talking, etc.

Dina and I walked around the building and down to the road to talk about space, parking, etc. Jessica drove up just then and we went back up to show her where we can park. Shortly afterwards, Gabe Mott arrived, walking downhill. Gabe has a friend (Al) who lives in the greenhouse just uphill from Raj’s home. We had a nice informative conversation with Al about the location.

The land owner is apparently a family trust, with family living just south of the greenhouses. There are several people who live on the property – all uphill from Raj. There is some minor conflict over parking spaces. During the daytime, visitors (workers) at Raj and the other greenhouses can easily overwhelm the available parking. When residents return, they have often found visitors parked in their spaces. Street parking may seem possible as the shoulder is a car width + wide in some areas up/down hill from the space. However, vehicles using the road do not abide by the edges of lanes or roadway. I saw a couple large trucks barreling down the road using three lanes worth of the two lane road. Street parking is an invitation for sideswiping.

Looking at the space, it might help our parking and noise issues if we were able to switch to the square greenhouse a bit downhill from Raj. I understand this is one currently slated for the Community Gardens but perhaps we can switch with them? One benefit of this other house is it would be easier to install and use a large (rollup) doorway for equipment, etc. Another is it would avoid us driving over a main water juncture just outside our currently allocated space.

There is reportedly a 50amp breaker for each greenhouse, which makes power a bit tricky. We might have some issues running multiple large machines (lathe, etc) and soldering irons, plus fridge, etc concurrently.

We estimate the buildings are about 45ft/side (~2000sqft) with 8ft sides. If we cover with corrugated plastic panels (8’x26″ @$20) that comes to about $1800. Figure about the same again for roofing. Flooring could be a combination of concrete slab and post/pier wood frame. Slab is required for heavy equipment (lathes, etc) both to reduce/eliminate vibration and for ease of cleaning. You do NOT want metal shavings getting into shoes, etc. (esp open toe things we wear round here often.) Classroom/electronics areas could use wood frame flooring. We would also need to budget some sun screen netting for over the roof, and large ventilation fans.

After walking around a bit, and sitting in very limited shade, swatting abundant mosquitos, we adjourned to Jessica’s home up in Kula for some refreshments. We talked about the needed infrastructure and perceptions of the space (which I have tried to roll into my above report). If you have comments or things to add, please do so!

So some action items here:
1) talk with Raj about noise and parking issues
2) talk with Raj and C.Garden folks about switching spaces
3) solid estimates on slab and other construction items.