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Green information technology | Hello World #17

via Raspberry Pi

The global IT industry generates as much CO2 as the aviation industry. In Hello World issue 17, we learn about the hidden impact of our IT use and the changes we can make from Beverly Clarke, national community manager for Computing at School and author of Computer Science Teacher: Insight Into the Computing Classroom.

With the onset of the pandemic, the world seemed to shut down. Flights were grounded, fewer people were commuting, and companies and individuals increased their use of technology for work and communication. On the surface, this seemed like a positive time for the environment. However, I soon found myself wondering about the impact that this increased use of technology would have on our planet, in particular the increases in energy consumption and e-waste. This is a major social, moral, and ethical issue that is hiding in plain sight — green IT is big news.

This is a major social, moral, and ethical issue that is hiding in plain sight — green IT is big news.

Energy and data centres

Thinking that online is always better for the planet is not always as straightforward as it seems. If we choose to meet via conference call rather than travelling to a meeting, there are hidden environmental impacts to consider. If there are 50 people on a call from across the globe, all of the data generated is being routed around the world through data centres, and a lot of energy is being used. If all of those people are also using video, that is even more energy than audio only.

Stacks of server hardware behind metal fencing in a data centre.
Data centres consume a lot of energy — and how is that energy generated?

Not only is the amount of energy being used a concern, but we must also ask ourselves how these data centres are being powered. Is the energy they are using coming from a renewable source? If not, we may be replacing one environmental problem with another.

What about other areas of our lives, such as taking photos or filming videos? These two activities have probably increased as we have been separated from family and friends. They use energy, especially when the image or video is then shared with others around the world and consequently routed through data centres. A large amount of energy is being used, and more is used the further the image travels.

Not only is the amount of energy being used a concern, but we must also ask ourselves how these data centres are being powered.

Similarly, consider social media and the number of posts individuals and companies make on a daily basis. All of these are travelling through data centres and using energy, yet for the most part this is not visible to the user.

E-waste

E-waste is another green IT issue, and one that will only get worse as we rely on electronic devices more. As well as the potential eyesore of mountains of e-waste, there is also the impact upon the planet of mining the precious metals used in these electronics, such as gold, copper, aluminium, and steel.

A hand holding two smartphones.
In their marketing, device manufacturers and mobile network carriers make us see the phones we currently own in a negative light so that we feel the need to upgrade to the newest model.

The processes used to mine these metals lead to pollution, and we should also consider that some of the precious metals used in our devices could run out, as there is not an endless supply in the Earth’s surface.

It is also problematic that a lot of e-waste is sent to developing countries with limited recycling plants […].

It is also problematic that a lot of e-waste is sent to developing countries with limited recycling plants, and so much of the e-waste ends up in landfill. This can lead to toxic substances being leaked into the Earth’s surface.

First steps towards action

With my reflective hat on, I started to think about discussions we as teachers could have with pupils around this topic, and came up with the following:

  • Help learners to talk about the cloud and where it is located. We can remind them that the cloud is a physical entity. Show them images of data centres to help make this real, and allow them to appreciate where the data we generate every day goes.
  • Ask learners how many photos and videos they have on their devices, and where they think those items are stored. This can be extended to a year group or whole-school exercise so they can really appreciate the sheer amount of data being used and sent across the cloud, and how data centres fit with that energy consumption. I did this activity and found that I had 7163 photos and 304 videos on my phone — that’s using a lot of energy!
A classroom of students in North America.
Helping young people gain an understanding of the impact of our use of electronic devices is an important action you can take.
  • Ask learners to research any local data centres and find out how many data centres there are in the world. You could then develop this into a discussion, including language related to data centres such as sensors, storage devices, cabling, and infrastructure. This helps learners to connect the theory to real-world examples.
  • Ask learners to reflect upon how many devices they use that are connected to the Internet of Things.
  • Consider for ourselves and ask parents, family, and friends how our online usage has changed since before the pandemic.
  • Consider what happens to electronic devices when they are thrown away and become e-waste. Where does it all go? What is the effect of e-waste on communities and countries?

Tips for greener IT

UK-based educators can watch a recent episode of TV programme Dispatches that investigates the carbon footprint of the IT industry. You can add the following tips from the programme to your discussions:

  • Turn off electronic devices when not in use
  • Use audio only when on online calls
  • Dispose of your old devices responsibly
  • Look at company websites and see what their commitment is to green IT, and consider whether we should support companies whose commitment to the planet is poor
  • Use WiFi instead of 3G/4G/5G, as it uses less energy

These lists are not exhaustive, but provide a good starting point for discussions with learners. We should all play our small part in ensuring that we #RestoreOurEarth — this year’s Earth Day theme — and having an awareness and understanding of the impact of our use of electronic devices is part of the way forward.

Some resources on green IT — do you have others?

What about you? In the comments below, share your thoughts, tips, and resources on green IT and how we can bring awareness of it to our learners and young people at home.

The post Green information technology | Hello World #17 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Weekend Projects to Get You Started with Arduino Cloud

via Arduino Blog

Weekend projects, as we like to call them, are often the most fun. We all have half-a-dozen unfinished projects that we need to work on. But weekend projects are the kind of things you want to work on. Something that isn’t a big commitment, doesn’t take too much effort, and offers a fun result.

As you probably know, the Arduino Cloud underwent a small renovation recently. The free tier got a lot of extra features, and you can even use it for ESP8266 and ESP32 devices now. So if you’d like to take a fun weekend project into the Arduino Cloud, we’ve got a few for you to try out.

Cloud-based TV Remote Control

Control a TV using Arduino

It almost feels like universal remote controls have had their day. They were super popular for a while, as our list of multimedia household gadgets started to grow. But then TV manufacturers stepped up their game, and universal remotes disappeared a bit.

Home automation fans are bringing the concept back, though. There’s still a lot of audio/visual gear that will only interface with you though infrared. So this great Arduino Nano 33 IoT project learns your remote control’s IR commands, and lets you control them through Arduino Cloud. And once it’s in the Cloud, there’s no limit to what you can do in terms of integrating any remote controlled household device into your home auto setup.


Cloud Doorbell Weekend Project

An Arduino Cloud doorbell project

This is an old project now, from back when the Arduino Cloud was just taking shape. But if you’re looking for a great weekend project, it’s still just as relevant as ever.

Although the project calls itself a doorbell, it’s really underselling itself. This is actually a connected access controller you can operate from anywhere. Like, anywhere in the world.

It gets you started by creating a wireless doorbell that plays a tune. But there’s also a relay at the door unit, which lets you control the lock. This could be a maglock, an electronic keep, a solenoid deadbolt, or any other electronic lock. What’s great is the lock itself doesn’t have to connected, or particularly fancy or clever. As long as it can be activated by a relay, this great weekend project makes it into a smart lock.


Integrate Alexa into Arduino Weekend Projects

Add Alexa to your Arduino weekend projects

Chances are you’ve already got lots of great maker projects around the house. And if you’re anything like us, you regularly tinker with them to make them better (or to break them). So a great weekend project doesn’t have to be brand new. You could just have fun adding new features to an old project.

Alexa, for example. This is a super easy way to add one of the world’s most advanced voice control functions to anything.

Follow along with the project to connect your Arduino Cloud account with Alexa. Once the skill is in place, you’ve effectively got a whole new way to easily interact with any project. Great for home auto devices, or you could even make your TV voice controlled if you combined it with the project above!


Get Your Sketches Organized in the Cloud

Import your sketches into Arduino Cloud the easy way

We make no secret that the Arduino Cloud Web Editor is the easiest, smoothest way to program your boards. All your boards; not just Arduinos. Once you’ve used it, it’s one of those features that you can’t imagine how you lived without.

But seasoned makers probably have a whole library of projects and sketches saved locally. It’s inevitable, after using the Arduino IDE for years. This weekend you could do what you’ve been promising yourself for a long time. Get organized with your work.

Moving your sketches and work into the Cloud is the first step in bringing a lot of awesome projects back to life. They’re instantly endowed with lots of new connectivity features, and the Web Editor makes it a pleasure to refine your old code.

Here’s how to import your work into Arduino Cloud the easy way. Then next weekend, you’ll be rich with ideas for what your next project will be!


Arduino Cloud Sensor Tower

Arduino Cloud sensor tower weekend project

If you’re looking for more ambitious weekend projects, a sensor tower is awesome. It’s something we’ve considered a few times, especially around home automation. When your heating or lighting is automated, you need sensors to give feed them data, or they’re useless. Which is fine, if you can get those sensors into the right location.

This Cloud-based project combines temperature, humidity, movement, luminosity and even a gas detector into one handy package. You don’t have to include them all, or you can add more. Totally up to you. What’s exciting about this is how it lets you locate the sensors in exactly the right place for optimal data collection.

Arduino Cloud’s device-to-device communication (which was added after this project was published) makes communication incredibly simple. Building the sensor box is one thing, but now you can harness the data in new and incredibly flexible ways. Build the tower this weekend, and spend next weekend integrating the data into your whole home auto setup.


Make sure you share your weekend projects with us on social media. And if you’re taking this opportunity to get started with the Arduino Cloud, here’s where you begin.

The post Weekend Projects to Get You Started with Arduino Cloud appeared first on Arduino Blog.

Back to Compressed Earth Blocks

via Open Source Ecology

It is an interesting convergence – lumber prices shooting through the roof – and Compressed Earth Block being some of the most robust building material known to humankind. After all, the Smithsonian did claim that sophisticated buildings will be made of mud. As such, we’re returning to CEB construction as part of the Seed Eco-Home project – AND building an industrial grade sawmill this summer. The CEB press and the sawmill are 2 important machines in the Global Village Construction Set. Making construction materials is necessary for cost control as we deploy our 1000 square foot house that can be built for $50k in materials. Our goal is to reduce this cost to 1/5 of this with 3D printing of construction materials from waste plastic – by developing open source plasic recycling as part of’ the ambitious Summer of Extreme Design-Build 2021.

If you want to order a CEB press, we can produce a fully automated version that makes at least 6 block per minute for $10k, or you can build one yourself for about half that in materials cost. This machine requires a hydraulic power unit to run, such as a tractor or our Power Cube. We sell Power Cubes for $4k (2500 PSI, 10 gpm). To order our Compressed Earth Block press – see more information on our wiki and email us at info at opensourceecology dot org to order one.

The post Back to Compressed Earth Blocks appeared first on Open Source Ecology.

Top 10 Creative Projects from Arduino Day Community Challenge

via Arduino Blog

With over 170 creative projects sent in from around the world, choosing just 10 winners for the Arduino Day Community Challenge was almost impossible.

Hopefully you were with us on Arduino Day, and saw the winning projects being unveiled during the livestream. But we also wanted to send out another big congratulations to the inventive Arduino lovers who won.

So let’s take another look at the 10 projects that won a big box of Arduino goodies for their creative contraptions.

Fingerprint Door-Lock

Anvesh Pathak

Using an Arduino Uno with a fingerprint sensor module, Anvesh created a smart, keyless door lock. A great project that has very clear, and desirable, applications. It doesn’t necessarily have to be for an external door either. This would work just as well on a cupboard, garage or even a locked box.

Anvesh went a step further in creating a great demo by incorporating a servo motor into his model house.

Arduino Fingerprint Door-Lock projects

Project Seismon

Swara Kadam

It’s always exciting to see an Arduino project that can have a very real impact on the world around us. Swara’s device is designed to help schools detect and respond to earthquakes, warnings and preparatory drills.

Packed up inside a superb robotic design, it’s easy to imagine seeing Seismon on the store shelves one day.

Seismon Arduino project

Smart Pull-Up Bar

Nikolas Babetas

Sometimes the most inspiring thing about an Arduino project is when you see the ingenious, yet simple solutions people come up with. For example, the way Nikolas solved the detection method for beginning his workout.

A laser light mounted on the pull-up bar is broken when he grips it, kicking the Tic-Tac Motivational Distribution System into action. And yes, that’s Ah-Ha’s Take On Me bleeping away in the background.

Smart Pull-Up Bar Arduino project

Elevator Project

Federico Magnelli

Federico chose an elevator to demonstrate his project, but what’s especially creative is that it has unlimited applications. He’s put together a system that lets him send remote commands via Telegram to an Arduino.

His example project shows how text messages can be used to remotely control lights, motors, audio and more. Anything you connect to a board, really.

Telegram controlled Arduino projects

Fidget Muse

Indigo Knecht

A great multifunction device inspired by the fidget cube, Indigo’s project is as educational as it is creative.

It’s all about inputs and outputs. This is a great example that anyone could use to easily learn about the multiple outputs that are possible from all kinds of Arduino Nano controls.

Fidget muse Arduino project

Orguino

Johan Halmen

An Arduino MKR1010 along with 61 servos have been used to renovate and automate an organ that was built in 1902. And if that’s not impressive enough, wait until you hear Johan’s song (and the new Arduino anthem), “The Arduino Nerd”.

Sing along, nerds!

Orguino Arduino project

Gear Machine Project

James Clarke

Some of the most impressive Arduino projects out there are the ones that teach you about more than just electronics. James’s modular Gear Machine is powered by an Arduino Micro, and gives you a great way to learn about the mechanics of gears, as well as how to drive them.

Gear machine Arduino project

IoT High Tech Mini Greenhouse

Maciej Gala

We love to see practical projects that also look amazing. The lighting system that Maciej has built into his IoT greenhouse is both effective and attractive. It’s also easy to see how the features of his project could easily be scaled up to any size of gardening application.

IoT greenhouse Arduino projects

Smart Trash Can

Carmen Cheung

As simple as Carmen’s Smart Trash Can is, it’s still one of the best examples of a creative, innovative, problem solving project we’ve seen. Especially with things the way they’ve been during 2020 and 2021, a remote, contactless trash can lid is just a brilliant, practical idea.

Smart trash can Arduino project

Chess Board Puzzle

Anastasis Malakozis

This is an inspired way to keep your valuables safe. Anastasis has rigged up an ingenious door lock that wouldn’t look out of place in the Wayne mansion as a sneaky way to get into the Bat Cave. Put the chess pieces in just the right place, and the lock opens.

Chessboard puzzle Arduino projects

Congratulation again to all the Arduino Day Community Challenge winners, and thanks to every who sent us their projects. You can find a lot more Arduino projects over at the Project Hub, and don’t forget to check out the rest of the Arduino Day livestream if you missed it on the day.

The post Top 10 Creative Projects from Arduino Day Community Challenge appeared first on Arduino Blog.

3D-printed mobile robot platform based on the Arduino Due

via Arduino Blog

Although an Arduino can be a great way to provide computing power for a mobile robot platform, you’ll need a variety of other electronics and mechanical components to get it going. In his write-up, computer science student Niels Post outlines how he constructed a robot that travels via two stepper motors, along with casters to keep it upright. The round chassis is 3D-printed and runs on three rechargeable 18650 batteries.

The platform is based on an Arduino Due, with stepper drivers and a custom PCB to take care of the wiring. The robot has no sensors or navigation aids onboard, but instead relies on an nRF24L01+ module to communicate with a Raspberry Pi that hosts the web interface for control and livestream viewing. This setup employs a webcam to sense and direct the robot through its environment using printed markers.

More details on Post’s project can be found in his Instructables tutorial.

Upload your sketch over-the-air with the Arduino IoT Cloud!

via Arduino Blog

Over-the-air (or OTA) programming is a very useful feature in all those cases where your devices are located in places that are not easily accessible. For example, you built a weather station using the Oplá IoT Kit, situated it on your rooftop, and started monitoring the weather from an IoT Cloud dashboard. That’s great until you find a bug or want to modify something and have to climb on your roof with a laptop to do so. Here’s where OTA becomes handy. 

If you have connected an Arduino Nano 33 IoT or a MKR WiFi 1010 to the Arduino IoT Cloud, you can now update the sketch using a wireless connection from the web.

How it works

To use OTA, you need to do two things: enable a device and create a Thing.

To enable a device, you need to connect a board to the IoT Cloud and update the firmware. Just plug the device into the USB, go to the Device tab, and click Add Device. A wizard will guide you through the process — at the end, your board will be available as a target for the upload over-the-air and you will be able to update the sketch remotely!

A Thing is a component that manages the dialogue between the cloud and the physical device thanks to a dedicated library (the Arduino Connection Handler), and stores the data into the cloud. Creating a Thing is simple: just select the voice from the IoT Cloud’s main menu, configure the variables that you want to exchange with the device, and pair the board that you have just enabled.

If you are new to the IoT Cloud, here is an in-depth tutorial on how to build an IoT project with Arduino Create. Once you have configured a Thing, you will be able to perform OTA updates. 

Devices that can be updated via OTA will appear in the dropdown list of all updatable devices in the online editors of Create — the full Web Editor and the new Sketch Editor have been introduced in the Thing configuration page to make minor changes to the code.

This Sketch Editor is one of the innovations that we have introduced in the IoT Cloud with two objectives in mind: 

1. Help those who are learning to program with Arduino follow the tutorials of IoT projects, such as those included in the Oplà IoT Kit.

2. Allow users to quickly make small changes to the sketch, which do not require access to libraries or more sophisticated editing functions.

More resources

If you want to know more about OTA and the redesign of the IoT Cloud, we have prepared a couple of detailed tutorials that will walk you through the exploration of the new features. 

Uploading sketches over-the-air (OTA)

Getting started with the Arduino IoT Cloud

New to Arduino Create? It’s a platform that helps you develop and manage connected projects with Arduino, featuring tools to code, monitor, and control devices from the Internet and your smartphones. Sign up for free now!

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