Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Hackday mini-Project

Due to schedule conflicts, I won't able to take part in Hackday 9 which is due to happen on Friday. However, I felt it would be setting a bad precedent if I completely ignored the event. Hence I decided to tackle a mini-project the last Sunday at home.

I have been recently working with some local primary schools helping them to do projects relating to Smarter Energy for display at the BT Young Scientist Exhibition next January. In order to help introduce the concept I was decided to build a simple test rig with several different types of light bulbs that the students can use to measure the efficiency of the bulbs. This was not a technically very challenging job, but it did involve a few hours of hard work stripping wires and screwing in light fixtures. On the right you can see my completed handy-work.

I have also purchased a simple plug-in power meter so that the students can easily measure the power consumed as each of the lights is switched on. Of course the power consumed is only telling part of the story - I also needed to measure the light output of the various bulbs because as well as having a huge variation in power consumption the bulbs also produce radically different amounts of light.

Rather than purchase a dedicated light meter I decided to see if I could find an application for my phone which was capable of taking the measurements. After a bit of experimentation I settled on using the Light Meter Application from Borce Trajowski. As well as producing reliable measurements of light intensity, this free application also has a really attractive retro-style display. Of course it is only fair to mention that I also tried a different application called Light Meter as well as ones called beeCamLightMeter and  Lux Meter which didn't seem to work reliably at all (which just goes to show that you can't totally trust the application descriptions in the Android market).

I plan to use this test rig in some upcoming visits to schools by myself, but of course I am happy to lend it to anyone else who would like to use it for similar events.

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