The horrific end to my first go at fluid mechanics has shifted my graduation back an entire year. At first this seemed to be a crippling blow, but more careful analysis reveals that it is probably the best thing that could have happened. Instead of killing myself with six engineering courses in a single term, I will finish school without having to take more than two classes a semester. My GPA could use the help a lighter load will provide. A lighter load will also let me tackle some personal projects I have in mind. What are those projects you might ask?

Project 1: Digital Hydrometer

An Arduino based project to determine the specific gravity of a fluid is first on my list of things to do. No longer do I have an ounce of faith in my analog hydrometer, and instead of doing things the easy way I intend to apply some of the years of science I have studied to build a better mousetrap. This will include a datasheet with my calculated uncertainty for specific gravity values, and a calibration mode to verify that my calculations are as relevant as possible. I may include some memory features to store previous S.G. values (and temperatures) in order to present the calculated percent alcohol by volume.

Project 2: Darkroom Rebuild

The powers that be have required the deconstruction of my darkroom to facilitate the renovation of the vanity area it had occupied. Redesigning, rebuilding, and upgrading the darkroom in a standalone structure is on my list of things to do. This will have to be a carefully planned build, as I do not intend to have to go back and reinvent the wheel again when I move to my own place. Modular construction will be key, though maintaining a well insulated and light tight modular structure will present some challenges. If I am going to build another darkroom it will include a much larger sink area, and one capable of serving as a thermal bath to maintain appropriate temperatures in my development chemistry. I anticipate the use of  an Arduino based control system inside the darkroom as well. As it stands the timer for my enlarger is an Arduino project I need to re-code, creating more control systems shouldn’t be difficult at all.

Project 3: Lagering Fridge

There is already an undesired freezer in the house, and it would do nicely to serve as a lagering or cold-conditioning closet for my beer. As a bonus, if it lives in the darkroom shed, it could also store my paper and film. Its refrigeration cycle could also be used to reduce temperature in the development thermal bath with some creative plumbing and of course another Arduino control circuit. In fact, running the temperature controls for both systems in a single device should not be rocket science at all. I may even be able to fit the AC requirements of the shed into the same Arduino sketch and have a one-stop shop for temperature control of three different systems.

Project 4: Automated Brewery

One day this will happen. It may end up a senior design project, or it may just be something I tackle on my own. My goal is to increase my extraction efficiency and maintain a system that allows for precise control of my mash temperatures whether I do a single step infusion mash or use protein rests and the like. Brewing is fun, but sometimes I just want to set and forget. As of this moment I am unsure exactly how much of the process I wish to automate, but there is a lot I certainly want to actively monitor and control. Arduino may be the way I go, but I could also see a Raspberry Pi or perhaps my old Soekris net4801 pulling the control systems lifting.

My intention is to have completed each of these projects before I can finally, after way too much education, claim to have completed a degree. Stay tuned.