A team of middle school students from the town of Poplar visited a grower in Strathmore to discuss the idea of installing soil moisture sensors in the pistachios. After a conversation with the grower a new idea emerged for a future project: creating a system that measures how much water is in the storage tanks across the ranch and notifies the ranchers when the levels get too low and a refill is needed.

The youth talk with the rancher about his work and how technology might help improve efficiency
As a result of the conversation, an idea emerges for a new project that can leverage existing technology. The idea is to modify a soil moisture probe to measure the level of water in a water tank.
Before sensors are built and installed, a gateway station needs to be installed at the ranch. A gateway collects data from the sensors and uploads it to the Internet where it can be viewed securely using an app.
The soil is quite hard and it takes a while to dig down far enough
Another team prepared a solar panel
The gateway is attached, all that remains is the solar panel
The gateway is up and running, time to go eat something!
We let the gateway run for a few weeks to check the quality of the data connection.
Before building an actual system, we need to build a model to test at the school. Some of the materials needed include water pumps, plastic tubing, wires, a battery, and buckets.
They drill holes in the sides of the buckets for the tubing to fill or drain water.
PVC pipes are used to simulate water being pulled up from a well. A PVC tube will be inserted into a bucket of water and a water pump will pull the water up, just like a well pump.
The tubing is connected to the bucket and then to the water pump.
The table is a mess, but it makes sense, maybe, perhaps…
Almost ready for a demo
The system is tested out on campus near the school garden. It actually works. Water is pulled up from one bucket (the well) and pumped up into the top bucket (which is the water tank at the ranch). All that’s needed now is for the sensor to be placed in the top bucket to simulate a sensor in the water tank at the ranch.
Never underestimate what a handful of motivated youth can accomplish.
Now that the buckets, pumps, and tubing are ready, youth work on the sensor and wireless telementry systems
Youth are preparing for a demo with a reporter from the local newspaper, the Porterville Recorder
It’s working, data is being pushed from sensors to the Internet.
These enclosures will hold the electronics
A few more screws and it will be ready
Final preparations
Demonstrating the system to Jamie Hunt from the Porterville Recorder. It ends up working and its possible to monitor the level of water in the top bucket remotely. She wrote an article about the project that can be viewed on the newspaper’s website:


Categories: PoplarSTEM