Some Useful Diagrams Illustrating Evaporometer Processes

Author: Marissa Kwon


So far we have used this series of blogposts to discuss a lot of the technical details about how certain processes are happening within the Evaporometer Transmitter and Receiver.  A series of diagrams has been made to help visualize how everything comes together.  First will be a diagram showing how all the sensors are connected to the Feather 32u4 and battery, followed by two flowcharts illustrating how abstract environmental conditions are transformed into the data logged in our spreadsheet.

Evaporometer Transmitter Connections:


Pictured above is a very simple assembly diagram for the Evaporometer Transmitter.  Notice that many of the devices have the same yellow and blue colored lines – these are the serial clock and data lines respectively and they are all hooked up to the same pins on the Feather.  The red and black lines represent power and ground, and all devices must be connected to these nodes in order to receive power.  In real life, the power and ground rails exist along the far edges of a protoboard or breadboard so that all the device wires do not need to be crammed into one small area.

Flowcharts Following the Progression of Evaporometer Data:

Sensors turn information collected from the environment into quantifiable values such as integer and float values that eventually get passed on to the receiver and logged onto a spreadsheet where we can see them online.  The diagram below shows how data moves from one component to the next through the Evaporometer Transmitter. Each labeled point on the flowchart indicates where the data must undergo at least one change before being able to proceed to the next.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 3.14.36 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-28 at 3.14.36 PM.png

Although it may seem like a fairly simple process, the sensor data must undergo several transformations before it can reach its destination on the spreadsheet. The integer and float values collected by the sensors must be turned into strings so they can be concatenated into one long packet of data.  Now as a single piece of information, the string is cast into an array of 8-bit characters so that it can be transmitted and received using the LoRa components built into our micro-controllers.  When the message is received it must also be broken back into the same pieces before it was concatenated and able to be cast back into the float or integer values.  To do this we add a comma as a delimiter placed in between data points during concatenation, and once it is received we use use strtok() to divide up our character array at the location of the commas to separate the packet back into different pieces of data.

The diagram below illustrates each process that takes place in the transmitter, starting with data collection right after the RTC alarm wakes it up.

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 4.57.31 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-08-24 at 4.57.31 PM.png

– Marissa Kwon, URSA and NSF Grant Summer Student Researcher

Successful “Real Time” Data Logging (Finally!) – A Step by Step Walk Through

Author: Tom DeBell

Update 10/3/18

The description of process of using PushingBox and the Google scripts was updated 10/3/18 (primarily with regards to the usage and interfacing with the Google Script). The most up to date and comprehensive tutorial is now maintained here.


Connecting… Connecting… Transmission Received!

After months of prototyping, experimenting and redesigning we have successfully deployed our first, “fully open source” transmitter and receiver with near real time updates to a google spreadsheet.  This post will give a step by step procedure on how to set up all the software and web interfaces for this project.

Step One – Creating and Deploying your Google Sheet

A) Log in to your free Google account and create a new “Google Sheet,” this is the spreadsheet which will be populated by the sensor data received by the Ethernet Featherwing data logger. At this point, you will need to copy and save your spreadsheets URL key for use in your Arduino code. This key is listed in the URL between the “/d/ ” and the “/edit ” of your new spreadsheet (see red box).


B) Name your Spreadsheet something original like “Environmental Data,” now we must create our Google App Script (similar to JavaScript) which will process our data and populate our spreadsheet correctly. To insert our Google App Script we first navigate from our spreadsheet to the Script Editor, found under the Tools tab:

Tools →Script Editor

We will now be on the Google Script Editor page. Now we can name our Gscript something extra-creative like “My Environmental GScript”, but do not have to. Fortunately, we do not have much that we have to do on the Script editor page.

1) Copy and Paste the Google Script code into the Editor. (link to GitHub with all needed codes here)

2) Save the script: File→Save All

3) Deploy as a web App: Publish-→ Deploy as web App…

C)  Our final Step for setting up our Google sheet will involve configuring the Web deployment parameters. It is important you set all these fields correctly. If you don’t set all four fields exactly your spreadsheet won’t work properly (trust me…). This step takes place immedietly after clicking “Deploy as Web App”.

Field 1) Copy and Save the “Current web app URL:“ which has just been generated, we will need this later when we configure our API in PushingBox.

Field 2) Save a project version as “new” on each iteration, it’s important to note that if you don’t make a new project version for each script revision you make (if you decide to make any revisions), your script revisions won’t be updated on the web. This is counter-intuitive, and easy to neglect, but this is currently how Google has this system configured.

Field 3) “Execute the app as: “ set this to “me(your GMail here) ”.

Field 4) “Who has access to the app: “ set this to “anyone, even anonymous.” *This is important, and allows Pushingbox access the spreadsheet.* 

Step Two – PushingBox API serves as simple, free, and easy Application Programming Interface (API) middleman in allowing our Evaporometer data to be palatable to Google Sheets. The need for using the PushingBox API intermediary is to turn our HTTP Ethernet transmitted data into Google compliant HTTPS encrypted data. Although other programmers have found workarounds to this system (found here) using PushingBox is easier, and we are given up to 1,000 requests (Data Transmissions) a day.

*1,000 push requests is more than enough for updates every 2 minutes in a 24-hour cycle but not enough for minute by minute updates (thus the “” around real time) but this service is completely free.*

Below are the steps for configuring Pushingbox to work with our data:

1. Create a PushingBox account using your Gmail.

2. At the top click on “My Services”

3. While now in “My Services” go to the “Add a service” box and click on “Add a service”.

4. The service you will want to create is the last item on the list of services and is called: ”CustomURL, Set your own service !”. Now select this CustomUrl service.

5. A box will open up and ask for three items. Fill them out as below, then hit submit

Name of your CustomURL configuration:

Root URL: This url will start with… as this is your Google Script address saved from Part 1

6. After submitting your service you must now create a scenario for the service. To do this select “My Scenarios” at the top of the page.

7. Enter an appropriate name for your scenario in the “Create a scenario or add a device” box. After you name your service click the “add” button to the right.

8. Now it will ask to “Add an action for your scenario” You should now choose the “Add an action to this service” button listed next to the service name you created in the previous step. This assigns your new scenario to your new service.

9. A data box will open asking you for your “Get” or “Post” method (we use the Get method although this seems counter-intuitive). For recording all our Evaporometer data into your Google sheet you need to link your variable names listed in your Google App Script to the names listed in our Arduino sketch. Formatting the names correctly in the Pushingbox API will accomplish this linking task.

Copy and paste the following string into your box.


































The result should look like as follows (roughly, as the data string shown in the image is slightly out of date, but the rest is correct), but with your own scenario name and Device ID number:

*Make sure to copy your “DeviceID” string that will be generated after setting up the service, you will need it for both preliminary testing in the next step, and later for the Arduino Sketch in Part 4.*

Step Three- Testing API and Google Spreadsheet

Before we move on to the last step, in which we program the Adafruit Feather 32u4 with LoRa Radio Module and complimentary Ethernet Feather Wing which will log data through the web, it would be helpful to test that everything we have done thus far is correct. If we wait to complete the hardware portion then the cause of any errors may be more difficult to track down. Fortunately, we have a simple method of testing our code so far. We can just directly enter some hard-coded pseudo-data into our web browsers address bar and check that our Google sheet is being updated correctly. Here is an example of what you might copy and paste into your browsers address bar.<<YOUR-PUSHINGBOX-DEVICEID>>&key0=sheetID&val0=<<SPREADSHEET-ID>>&key1=tabID&val1=<<SHEET/TAB-OF-SPREADSHEET>>&key2=deviceID&val2=<<NAME-GIVEN-TO-ARDUINO>>&key3=TimeStamp&val3=50&key4=TempC&val4=200&key5=Humid&val5=80&key6=LoadCell&val6=1000&key7=IRLight&val7=2000&key8=FullLight&val8=3000&key9=BatVolt&val9=4.2

If you like you can even re-enter new fake data with different values for subsequent rows, however, remember you only have a 1,000 requests per day from so don’t go crazy! If this procedure did not update your spreadsheet then go back and review Parts 1 -3 of this instructional for errors before attempting Part 4. Congratulations if you have made it this far, the worst is over! (it took me about a dozen times to get all the previous steps correct) Update – the modification of this process and the Google Script since the initial writing of this blog post were primarily to simplify these steps

Step Four – Hardware Set-up and Arduino Sketches

After confirming you were able to push some hard-coded pseudo-data directly from your browser onto your Google Sheet you are now ready for the next step which involves sending data directly from the Feather 32u4 and complimentary Ethernet Feather Wing to Google via Pushingbox over an Ethernet connection. Before you can upload and run the included Arduino sketch to the Feather Board you must complete the following three steps.


1. Wiring the Feather 32u4 board to the Ethernet FeatherWing:  a guide on how to do this can be found on the adafruit website here, as well as one of my previous posts, found here.


2. There are a few steps to set up your Arduino IDE to work with your Feather 32u4 board.. These steps include downloading the necessary libraries and configuring the Arduino IDE (1.6.4 or later) with the correct Feather Board package. Many of you will have already installed all the software you need, for those that have not, below are links to retrieve the needed libraries and the Feather 32u4 board support package.

The two required libraries for our particular sketch:

Two great tutorials to walk you through getting the correct Feather 32u4 board and Ethernet FeatherWing package installed into the Arduino IDE if you haven’t done this already:


3. You are now ready for the final step of the project, you need to copy and paste the included Arduino sketch, customize it for your device, and then upload the sketch onto your Feather 32u4 board and Ethernet FeatherWing. Update – that sketch is now out of date, refer to the Loom Library instead for the corresponding updated code and process.

A) Your MAC Address (Found in Ethernet packaging)

B) Your Static IP address (May need to be given by IT admins)

C) Your Pushing box Device ID (devid)

That’s it, you’re done! If everything was completed correctly your output will look something like the picture below:

Populated Google Spreadsheet (left) and Ardiuno IDE with example code.Populated Google Spreadsheet (left) and Ardiuno IDE with example code.

Populated Google Spreadsheet (left) and Ardiuno IDE with example code.

Final Receiver and Ethernet data logger set-up.Final Receiver and Ethernet data logger set-up.

Final Receiver and Ethernet data logger set-up.

– Tom DeBell, Beginning Researcher Support Program Researcher

Accounting For Signal And Power Line Noise On An Arduino Caused By A Brushed DC Motor

A bug in the water sampler’s electronics has come and gone throughout the iterations of our design: the valves would reset intermittently when the pump motor was operating. First we moved the pump from the same shift register as the valves to its own dedicated MOSFET. We added a small capacitor for mild noise. The problem disappeared until later iterations. Then, we changed the MOSFET to a dedicated H-Bridge motor controller from Adafruit, equipped with its own 22uF and .1uF decoupling capacitors. The problem disappeared until we used a larger pump in a later iteration. So we talked to Jim Wagner about it and he cleared things up for us.

It turns out that brushed DC motors create a lot of noise, which is exactly as we expected but did not know how to fix. The brushes in the motors cause irregular noise in the power lines with pulse widths too small to pick up on a multimeter, but quite easy to see using an oscilloscope. I hooked up the arduino’s 5V pin and ground to a probe and ran the system under the conditions that would cause the valves to reset. The scope was set to trigger on a falling edge lower than 3.04v. Sure enough, the initially-open valve closed and water forced its way through the flush valve after building pressure.

Look a little closer at the oscilloscope:

The 5V rail dropped to nearly 0V for about a microsecond, more than enough time to drop the SCLR line to fall to a low state and reset the shift registers. This explains why the valves were resetting! It wasn’t just this one instance, either; the valve continuously reset as the command “V1 1” to open it was sent, and the oscilloscope was continuously triggering due to a falling edge like the one in the picture as long as the pump was running.


OK. We had already added a 100 uF capacitor between the Arduino’s VIN (12V) and GND pins. I removed that and bumped it up to 1000uF, reconnected the system to the oscilloscope and ran the test again, this time with similar but notably different results.

The valves were still resetting, and the oscilloscope was triggering often, but the voltage never dropped below 2V. A small victory, surely, however the problem remained. I decided to add a 100uF capacitor between the 5V and GND pins in addition to the capacitor that I had already attached between the 12V and GND. A retest resulted in the valves resetting after 8 seconds of stability, but the magnitude of the noise was still the same:

I read here after some quick research that multiple capacitors of different sizes in parallel would buffer different frequencies of noise. So I unplugged everything again and took the board to the soldering station, tacking on a 10nF ceramic capacitor parallel to the 100uF cap between the 5V and GND pins. This time the valves lasted 15 seconds before resetting on a much smoother blip, magnified to 250ns per division below:

The same signal magnified to 10ns per divison below:

So close! I carefully unplugged everything one more time, soldered on a 1nF capacitor in parallel, then set up the test one final time:

Finally, the valves stayed on! The system ran for a minute straight without so much as a whisper from the probed voltage. This solution can be used in the next iteration of the PCB after more research, calculation, and perhaps discussion with Jim in order to protect against a wider range of noise on more lines more efficiently.

OPEnSampler Update August 9, 2017



Much progress has been made with the OPEnSampler! The frame is lightweight, the entire system fits into the Pelican rolling cooler, and the sample control works as expected. 24 bags fit with room inside the frame, and the system can be set on any face without issues, easing maintenance, testing, transport, and drawing out samples. Some issues persist in this iteration, namely light leaking from the bags and a low flow rate due to the cheap pumps.


The electronics of the sampler have evolved. They consist of an Arduino Uno connected to three custom PCBs: two Valve Breakout Boards (VBBs) and one Main Control Board (MCB). The MCB connects directly to the Arduino and includes the shift registers to control the valves, the motor breakout board for the pumps, the real time clock, and receptacles for ribbon cables connecting to the VBBs. The VBBs break out the open-drain outputs on the shift registers to 12 JST terminals each, corresponding to one valve each. Doing this reduced the wire-spaghetti caused by directly soldering wires to each valve. 



Slotted aluminum extrusion can be ordered at specific lengths with a tight tolerance for several dollars per piece, allowing the frame to be assembled in minutes with purchased corner brackets. A lighter but sufficiently strong 15mm aluminum extrusion was used, reducing the weight of the frame to just over 2 kg. The design of the frame allows the OPEnSampler to be tilted in any direction without issue.


Water to be sampled is pulled through an open end of 3/16” ID silicone tubing via two $12 peristaltic dosing pumps in parallel. The pumps claim to have a head height of “10m” and a flow rate of up to 150 ml/min, but in practice the numbers are about half those values. Further testing will be carried out, but the pumps will be replaced with a $60 peristaltic pump from a more reputable company supposedly capable of a 350ml flow rate.

Down-line of the pumps water fills the rest of the tubing, leaving the exit end if the flush valve is opened, or is pushed into a sample bag when its respective valve is opened. To draw sampled water out of a bag, its respective valve is opened and the pumps are powered in reverse using the H-bridge motor breakout board bought from Adafruit. 

Current Bugs

There are a couple known bugs in the system and one major design flaw that limits the functionality of the device. The first bug is mechanical: the bags leak when they are upside down. Initially, this was a very significant amount, draining the bags overnight. Teflon tape was wrapped around the elbow connectors that screw into the printed bag caps, and the leaking was reduced to a few mL per hour. Initial tests of new bag caps with changed O-Ring gland dimensions, a 3% smaller diameter through-hole for the elbow fittings, and the replacement of teflon tape with a gorilla-glue and acetone coat show very promising results with no leaking in the first two caps tested. 24 new caps were printed, processed, and are currently drying before testing tomorrow morning.


The second bug is intermittent and will be difficult to fix. On occasion, valve 7 becomes permanently powered and will stay open regardless of what serial commands are fed to the Arduino. This is characterized by a lack of actuating sound when the command “V7 1” (valve 7 on) is sent, by bag 7 filling despite sending the commands to fill another bag, and by an actuating sound upon powering on the device. This bug is not consistent and the cause is currently unknown. Battery power was suspected initially, but when probed the battery read a high 12.7 volts. 

The major design flaw is the low flowrate of the pumps, including the new pump selected. The EPA recommends a line velocity of greater than 2 ft/s when sampling for suspended solids such as sediments (link). With 3/16” ID tubing, this equates to a flow rate above 600 mL/min. Low flow pumps were chosen because high-flow peristaltic pumps cost between several hundred and several thousand dollars. A 3D printed pump head with a store-bought DC gear-motor is being investigated, though a <$100, 1000ml/min 12V pump has been found on AliExpress and will be tested out before a DIY pump is developed. 


While a significant portion of this writeup was dedicated to discussing the current issues with the device, the OPEnSampler is working almost exactly as expected. If a solution to the leaking problem is not found soon, the bags can simply be reoriented to sit upright for this current version. The pumps will be sufficient in sampling for analytes that aren’t large-particle suspended sediments.

Visit to HJ Andrew’s Experimental Forest

Author: Marissa Kwon


On Thursday July 27th, members of the OPEnS Lab finally deployed a working prototype of the Evaporometer at the HJ Andrew’s Experimental Forest.  They were accompanied by Professor Bo Zhao, a member of his data visualization team, and coordinators at the HJ Andrews Forest as the receiver hub was set up at a station near the Discovery Trail and the Evaporometer-transmitter was drilled into a log overlooking a stream.

Installing the Hub:

The finished receiver is programmed to write data to a local SD card and upload info to an online google spreadsheet when an ethernet connection is available.  In addition to a reliable ethernet connection, the receiver requires an AC power source.  An existing weather station located just off the path of the discovery trail equipped with wifi and power was the perfect location to install our sensor.

The router providing internet service to the hub hooked up to the inside of the weather station.The router providing internet service to the hub hooked up to the inside of the weather station.

The router providing internet service to the hub hooked up to the inside of the weather station.

Our receiver hub connected to the power cables on the Discovery Trail weather station, recording transmissions from the Evaporometer.Our receiver hub connected to the power cables on the Discovery Trail weather station, recording transmissions from the Evaporometer.

Our receiver hub connected to the power cables on the Discovery Trail weather station, recording transmissions from the Evaporometer.

Walking through HJ Andrew's with the transmitter on debug mode, waiting for the loss of signal to be reported.Walking through HJ Andrew's with the transmitter on debug mode, waiting for the loss of signal to be reported.

Walking through HJ Andrew’s with the transmitter on debug mode, waiting for the loss of signal to be reported.

Deploying the Evaporometer:  

After the the receiver hub was installed the Evaporometer range was tested by placing the transmitter in debug mode and waiting for the signal to cut out.  After walking through the forest, it was estimated that the transmitter could be placed up to a quarter of a mile away from the hub.  The Evaporometer was reprogrammed off debug mode to transmit readings every 5 min.  Then the strain gauge attachment was primed with 500 ml of water over a 20 minute period by holding a slow drip device over the wick, according to protocol.  It was confirmed that data was uploading to our online spreadsheet and the visit to the forest was successful.

Using a smartphone to view data from our receiver hub,&nbsp;logged on a google spreadsheet.Using a smartphone to view data from our receiver hub,&nbsp;logged on a google spreadsheet.

Using a smartphone to view data from our receiver hub, logged on a google spreadsheet.

Lab members Tom Debell and Chet Udell mount the device above stream.&nbsp;Lab members Tom Debell and Chet Udell mount the device above stream.&nbsp;

Lab members Tom Debell and Chet Udell mount the device above stream.

The Evaporometer collecting evaporation,&nbsp;temperature, light,&nbsp;and humidity changes over a stream. &nbsp;As of 7/27/17 the Evaporometer is visible from OSU's Webcam:&nbsp; HJA Flood Cam.The Evaporometer collecting evaporation,&nbsp;temperature, light,&nbsp;and humidity changes over a stream. &nbsp;As of 7/27/17 the Evaporometer is visible from OSU's Webcam:&nbsp; HJA Flood Cam.

The Evaporometer collecting evaporation, temperature, light, and humidity changes over a stream.  As of 7/27/17 the Evaporometer is visible from OSU’s Webcam: HJA Flood Cam.

– Marissa Kwon, URSA Engage and Summer REU Student Researcher