Capstone Contest Winners Build Smarter Sprinklers

Franklin Cooper hates it when his sprinkler goes off while he’s at work — and it’s raining. So when a team of UTDesign students submitted a smart sprinkler system as part of a local competition, he was instantly intrigued.

“I wanted to see if their project improved efficiency and saved water,” Cooper said.

The university manager for Texas Instruments Inc. was one of the judges of The University of Texas at Dallas Best Use of TI contest, sponsored by the company. All students were welcome to enter the contest. The winner was chosen based on creativity, innovation and incorporation of TI products into a technical project.

Team members George “Joey” Hamad and Justin Dy were both computer engineering majors. Eric Hill, Saman Gharahgozloo and Neil Mustafa all majored in electrical engineering. Known as Team DNE, all five earned their bachelor’s degrees in spring 2019.

“I was impressed with how the UTDesign project was a whole device,” Cooper said. “Typically students submit a component or a small part of a larger mechanism. They usually don’t submit an entire product consisting of working parts.”

Team DNE’s winning project, unofficially known as a Cloud Hosted Intelligent Sprinkler System, is “an autonomous sprinkler system capable of monitoring outdoor conditions and adjusting the settings accordingly,” Hamad said.

Users can control the smart system from anywhere at any time using a web interface. The system measures soil moisture, weather data and watering schedules to determine which sprinklers in the network should run. Using various local network connections and national providers, the system wirelessly communicates moisture and weather data through sensor nodes, which causes sprinklers to turn on and off.

This allows the user to set a weekly watering schedule. It saves water by preventing the sprinkler from running when it is raining, when rain is in the forecast or when the soil is at a certain moisture threshold where watering would be unnecessary.

“When a schedule is set, the system takes over by making decisions on when to water based on the moisture levels of each sprinkler region,” Hill said. “A homeowner can also physically turn the sprinkler on and off, if they prefer. Either way, our device saves water by preventing operation of the sprinkler under wet conditions.”

A version of this story also ran in News Center.